Samaras

ANOTHER Greek BAILOUT!

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on December 3, 2014

tsipras14COMETH THE HOUR, IS HE THE MAN?

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GREECE: Slog vindicated again as Athens calls for new €10bn bailout

It does strike me as very odd (as I’ve written many times before) than an old pro-am hack like me, hunkered down in the south west of France, seems able to understand the real Greek debt situation…..but most experts don’t. Or do, but don’t write about it – I’m never entirely sure.

Last January, I posted a long piece – “Mind the Gap” – pointing out with the use of simple maths that, without further bailout monies, Greece would default in May 2014; and even if they got that money, they’d be in trouble again during the Autumn and early winter.

So it proved. With the European elections as a handy distraction, I was nevertheless able to confirm on March 27th that the Samaras Coalition would be given €8.5bn toavoid default in May. The Wall Street Journal  ran a piece soon afterwards agreeing with the view. After some deliberate obfuscation, on 10th May Athens got the money it needed to make a dent in over €11bn of bond maturaties that became due.

The previous year, Angela Merkel had gone into the German elections and lied her fat head off about the Volk not being asked for any more money, and how the future was bright. She plodded home with ease, since when –  in general eurozone and specific Greek terms – things have gone from very bad to a whole lot worse.

Now Mish’s Global Analysis (which reblogged my January piece) reveals that, yes indeed, Athens needs more money. To be more exact, €10bn. Back in January, I said it would be €5.6bn….but then other targets were missed as the economy got worse and worse; and last week in Paris, the Troika up and mentioned that there were €2.5bn of cuts that the Greeks hadn’t fulfilled. So as I say, now it’s worse than ever.

One side of the devalued coin in this farcical saga is that – even allowing for the fact that Homo Kalamatus Antonikis Samaras has an olive stone where his brain should be – he has lied three times on national Greek television about the reality of the situation. So not surprisingly, Alexis Tsipras’s Party Syriza is now comfortably leading in the polls…..and with the Assembly vote for a new President coming up, Samaras possibly lacks the support required to carry the day. Technically, under the Greek constitution this is a resigning issue, and so we’ll get elections early next year rather than in 2016.

For Brussels, this has all the makings of the sort of nightmare in which a loose nuclear cannon is careering all over the eurozone and fomenting revolt. But sadly, Tsipras has toned down his rhetoric: today he claims that the loan package will have to be renegotiated, but he doesn’t want to dump the euro. Economically this is idiocy, but the Syriza leader knows he can only win the election by appearing ‘reasonable’…ie, he is – as David Cameron would say – a non-violent extremist.

I confess to being disappointed by Tsipras, and here’s why. If you look at the numbers involved in ‘saving’ Greece, then the four bailouts represent probably the most expensive face-saving exercise in history. To protect a potential original loss in the region of €40bn, the Troika threw confetti money at a debt write-off roughly equivalent to Cameron’s HS2 folly. As of this latest bailout, it will have poured €240bn of confetti money onto a debt conflagration that is raging like a Greek forest fire in August.

Do the Sprouts feel humble about this? They do not: “Greece is not in a position to negotiate“, they told the media last week. That is about as Betty Swollocks as Brussels fantasy gets: Although it has a huge debt, Greece at last has a current account surplus. If it renounces the debt, it could reverse the austerity nonsense, leave the euro and be quids in. Which is why I think Tsipras, if he does win the election, needs to play some serious hardball.

I posted at the weekend that 2 euros in 3 being ‘repaid’ by Greece are funny money. The truth is that – with most of the vultures having had their kilo of flesh – the ECB could write off two-thirds of the debt without losing any real money at all. Better that, I would’ve thought, than a defaulting defector with Italy now looming over the same horizon.

In licking the creditors like this, Tsipras is sending a signal to say he’ll be happy with a compromise. He says he wants “a €chunk” of the debt “forgiven”, whereas I think he should shout “fraud” and shoot for the Moon. It’s actually Brussels-am-Berlin that’s in no position to press too hard with the jackboot on this one.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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