The long wait is over! The EU and IMF finally came to an agreement on how to help out Greece. It was much-anticipated since the move brings the debt-ridden country closer to a bailout and removes the immediate risk of a default.
In a nutshell, the new deal grants Greece lower interest rates, a debt buyback, and more time for it to repay its rescue loans. These measures are estimated to help the country lower its debt-to-GDP ratio to 124% by 2020 and even dip below 110% by 2022.
Of course, finance ministers are well aware that another bailout package would only increase Greece’s already-high debt pile. To address the issue, they have agreed to cut the interest rate on official loans, extend the maturity on EFSF loans by 15 years to 30 years, and grant a 10-year interest repayment deferral on such loans.
Policymakers seem very pleased with their plan. IMF Director Christine Lagarde praised it saying that it supports Greece’s economic reform plan and helps in making its debt sustainable. Meanwhile, Eurogroup Jean-Claude Juncker believes that finance ministers have looked past the issue of money; it promises a better future for the Greeks. Even ECB President Mario Draghi thinks highly of the deal, reducing uncertainty while boosting confidence in Europe.
Well, after nearly half a month’s worth of discussions, it’s about time that finance ministers come up with a deal that’s bound to put an end to Greece’s problems. However, market watchers who have been waiting for this announcement for a long time seem to be underwhelmed by the news. Although the euro strengthened and European shares jumped to their three-week high, the rallies weren’t sustained and barely spilled over to the rest of the markets.
One possible reason for the limited reaction was that most market participants have already priced in this event more than a couple of weeks ago so the actual announcement wasn’t much of a surprise. On top of that, currency analyst Kathy Lien explains that the recently announced Greek debt deal was still just a band-aid fix for a much deeper wound. According to her, it only resolves a short-term problem for the euro and not the euro zone’s overall debt crisis.
Traders also can’t help but feel skeptical about Greece’s chances of hitting the required debt-to-GDP targets. Take note that Greece’s debt is currently at 170% of their GDP and is projected to fall to 144% in 2020 given their current set of austerity measures. To reach the EU’s 124% debt-to-GDP requirement for 2020, the Greek government would definitely have to implement even more spending cuts, which would then take a huge toll on their economy.
For now, most of the details have yet to be finalized. Although the Greek debt deal appears to have soothed market participants’ fears for the near term, EU finance ministers and Greek government officials still have a lot of work to do before finally putting an end to the debt drama.