Portugal’s election on 4 October was inconclusive, without any party winning an absolute majority of the votes. The President of the country, a former Prime Minister, allowed his own party, led by incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho to form a new minority government as has been done in the past. However, the way he has gone about doing so has created a controversy, which has made Portugal the new focal point of the still virulent European sovereign debt crisis. While I don’t think this is a coup by any stretch, as some are saying, I do think Portugal has a tough road ahead regarding debt sustainability.
Success of the German-inspired solution for the latest Greek crisis is far from assured. If it fails, the Eurozone may be changed forever. This column argues that the failure would lead to an outcome that has been favoured for decades by Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. Perhaps the package the Eurozone agreed is just a backdoor way of getting to the ‘variable geometry’ and monetary unification for the core that the Maastricht criteria had failed to achieve.
Overall, I don’t see any clear signs that the risk on, risk off mentality, which has ruled since 2008, is finally coming to an end. Yes, correlations have begun to recede a little bit here and there; however, if it is indeed a sign of bigger things to come, it is still very early days.
I know I keep saying that economics is not a morality play. But when it comes to Greece, I can find no other satisfactory explanation for what is going on. I’ve reminded everyone before about Irving Fisher’s famous observation: “The more the debtors pay, the more they owe”. In 2012, Michael Hudson developed this idea further. “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be”, he said.
By Michael Pettis When Isaac, an editor at Foreign Policy, sent me an email two weeks ago asking if I could write a piece on the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), I quickly wrote back promising 1,200 words within a few days. I thought it would be pretty easy to come up with the points I wanted to make, […]
There is a legal concept called “odious debts.” It can be traced back more than a century. The US helped create a precedent for it by denying Cuba’s responsibility for the debt incurred under Spanish colonial rule. The concept took on added significance in the post-colonial era more broadly. The issue here is the continuity of legal obligations from one regime to another especially as it pertains to the debt acquired.
Finnish society, like many other European ones, is in the throes of a major transition. More debate needs to be held on what to do to facilitate the transition, and in the meantime deficit spending to make investments in future productivity improvements seems not to be a bad idea. Running deficits in order not to change, in contrast, would be.
In what can only be seen an unexpected Chinese success, several US allies have agreed to participate in China and India’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The frustration with the US on this issue is palpable. There is another issue at stake that head of China’s central bank Zhou Xiaochuan made clear at a forum yesterday. On a panel with the IMF’s Lagarde, Zhou pushed for the yuan to be included as a reserve asset and in the SDR basket.
When the Greek bailout extension deal got done, I mentioned that in the press conference that followed, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble made it clear he was looking to ‘sell’ the deal to the German parliament. And while he has been successful in doing so, recent evidence suggests that indeed he did have to work to make the deal viable. For me, this highlights the political constraints we are working under and reinforces my view that writedowns are not politically viable in Germany.
By Michael Pettis It is hard to watch the Greek drama unfold without a sense of foreboding. If it is possible for the Greek economy partially to revive in spite of its tremendous debt burden, with a lot of hard work and even more good luck we can posit scenarios that don’t involve a painful social and political breakdown, but […]
Yesterday, Greece received an agreement in principal to extend its existing bailout program for another four months from the institutions administering that program. I believe this deal is a good basis for further work down the line. But Greece has a lot of work ahead of it, if it is to move to a new program. Moreover, Syriza will have to sell this deal as a bridge to the sustainable economic outcome it sold to its electorate in the January elections. At the same time, the Germans and the Finns at a minimum will have to sell this deal to their parliaments for it to work. Some thoughts below
Yanis Varoufakis had a long interview on RT’s Boom Bust yesterday going into detail behind his political candidacy and what he expects SYRIZA to do regarding the unsustainable debt burden that the Greek government now has. Overall, despite his problems with the eurozone’s institutional structure, Yanis believes Greece leaving the eurozone would be a catastrophe for the simple fact that it does not have a currency and any attempt to leave would be seen as a prelude to a massive devaluation, inviting capital flight on a grand scale. This would be a catastrophe for the Greek banking system and wider economy.