Looks like Greece is back under the spotlight!
On November 20, euro zone head honchos will once again huddle together and brainstorm on ways to save the debt-ridden economy. This time around, their focus is on whether or not they should give Greece its next bailout tranche worth 32.6 billion EUR.
But wait, why aren’t investors selling the euro like there’s no tomorrow?
Well, one reason could be that they’ve been desensitized by all the previous times that Greece had teetered on the brink of default. Heck, people talk about a Greek default every time the country prints ridiculously weak economic reports or whenever it’s due to pay its debts! At this rate, the Greek debt saga would be as common as your average reality series.
Another possible reason why the euro hasn’t reached record lows against its counterparts on the issue is because optimists are still counting on the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) program to save the day. Remember that the program would allow the ECB to buy short-term debt from countries that have complied to the ECB’s conditions or are recovering from bailout programs.
And this is probably why Greek officials have been bending over backwards in order to satisfy the Troika’s bailout conditions. So far the government has passed a new set of austerity measures which include higher retirement age, salary, pension, and even holiday benefits cuts, and a 35% decrease in severance pay. Yikes!
Of course, the Greeks were upset with the implementation of more austerity measures. But there’s really not much that the government could do.
The latest round of budget cuts has allowed Greece access 31 billion EUR worth of aid as well as a two-year extension on its debt-reduction target. Keep in mind that it previously agreed with the Troika to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio to 120% by 2020 after it is estimated to peak at 190% of GDP in 2014.
Despite the extra moolah though, Greece still comes up short of cash. It still needs an extra 32.6 billion EUR and its creditors are already not seeing eye-to-eye on how to go about solving its financial crisis.
IMF Director Christine Lagarde didn’t like the decision of EU leaders to push back Greece’s debt-reduction target by two years. She remarked saying that she would defend the Fund’s credibility which consequently raised questions about whether or not the IMF would continue to contribute to Greece’s bailout.
EU governments are also refusing to dig deep into their own individual coffers to provide the debt-ridden country with money. Finnish Premier Jyrki Katainen has already rejected the idea of Finland taking the issue of providing Greece with cash to Parliament.
Writedowns are also not an option according to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble. ECB council member Jens Weidmann suggested the idea, pointing out that Greece should just pull off the same stunt it did back in March 2011 when investors forgave more than 100 billion EUR of debt. But according to Schauble, he would rather cut rates on loans or give Greece more time to meet its targets rather than have the country send “We’re sorry!” notes to investors as payment to its debts.
We all know how the story would end should Greece not get its next tranche of aid. Greece would default (which could happen by the end of this month) and a debt contagion would spread to other EZ countries such as Spain and Italy.
The question is, can the Troika afford to let Greece default this time around?