Category Archives: Bailout 3.0

14/7/15: IMF Update on Greek Debt Sustainability


Predictably... following yet another leak... the IMF has been forced to publish its update to the 'preliminary' Greek debt sustainability note from early July. Here it is in its full glory or, rather, ugliness: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2015/cr15186.pdf?hootPostID=2cd94f17236d717acd9949448d794045.

As discussed in my earlier post here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2015/07/14715-brave-new-world-of-imf-debt.html, Greek debt to GDP ratio is now expected to "The financing need through end-2018 is now estimated at Euro 85 billion and debt is expected to peak at close to 200 percent of GDP in the next two years, provided that there is an early agreement on a program."

Which means that "Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far."

Under the current programme (running from November 2012 through March 2016) the IMF projected "debt of 124 percent of GDP by 2020 and “substantially below” 110 percent of GDP by 2022", specifically, the projected debt at 2022 was 105%. Now, the Fund estimates 2022 debt at 142% of GDP.

Furthermore, "Greece cannot return to markets anytime soon at interest rates that it can afford from a medium-term perspective."

Worse, on the current path "Gross financing needs would rise to levels well above what they were at the last review (and above the 15 percent of GDP threshold deemed safe) and continue rising in the long term."

And IMF pours cold water over its own dream-a-little target of 3.5% primary surpluses for Greece. "Greece is expected to maintain primary surpluses for the next several decades of 3.5 percent of GDP. Few countries have managed to do so." Note the word decades! Now, IMF rejoins Planet Reality raising "doubts about the assumption that such targets can be sustained for prolonged periods."

In short - as I said earlier, politics not economics drive Eurogroup decision making on Greece. The IMF is now facing a stark choice: either engage with the euro area leadership in structuring writedowns (potentially also extending maturities of its own loans to Greece) or walk away from the Troika set up (and still extend maturities on its own loans to Greece).

Little compassion for the Fund, though - they made this bed themselves. Now's time to sleep in it...

14/7/15: The Brave New World of IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis


According to the secret IMF report released to the European leaders prior to the Sunday-Monday summits, "The dramatic deterioration in debt sustainability points to the need for debt relief on a scale that would need to go well beyond what has been under consideration to date - and what has been proposed by the ESM."

This is reported by Reuters here.

Per IMF report,that completes the Debt Sustainability Analysis released earlier this month (see the link to the original published report here) and that already concluded that Greek debts were not sustainable, accounting for the effects of capital controls and other recent factors, to address sustainability of Greek debt into 2020s:

  1. The EU (euro area) will need to extend graced period on Greek debt repayments to the ECB and the euro area to 30 years from now, and (not or)
  2. Dramatically extend maturity of debt given to Greece under previous programmes and the new upcoming programme.

Barring the above - which are not in the proposed Bailout 3.0 package - the euro area member states will have to "make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept "deep upfront haircuts" on their loans to Athens". In other words - either there will have to be direct aid or direct up front write downs to the debt. These too are not in the current proposal for Bailout 3.0.

Despite this damning analysis, the IMF continues to insist that it will be a part of the new arrangement and will have a new agreement with Greece comes March 2016 when the current one ends. In other words, political arm of the IMF (aka Madame Lagarde and national representatives of the EU) are now directly, head-on, and forcefully in a contradiction to their own technical team assessment of the situation. Madame Lagarde was present at the Sunday-Monday meetings and produced no apparent progress on the what her own technical team says will be a necessary part of any sustainable solution to the crisis.

There is an added component to all of this: IMF analysis refers to a significant deterioration in banking sector situation in Greece since the introduction of capital controls. Which makes sense - there are no new deposits coming into the system and, one can easily assume, loans due are not being serviced. This, in turn, begs a question as to how realistic are the EU-own assessments that the Greek banks will require EUR12-25 billion in capital.

How dire is the situation with Greek debt?

IMF new report projects debt to GDP ratio peaking at above 200% - which is bang on with my estimates previously - up on the previous IMF estimate of peak at 177%. By 2022, IMF estimated Greek debt will decline to 142% of GDP (that is back from the previous 'secret' report linked above). Now, the Fund says debt will stay at 170% of GDP even by 2022.

As Retuers reports, "Gross financing needs would rise to above the 15 percent of GDP threshold deemed safe and continue rising in the long term".

"In the laconic technocratic language of IMF officialdom, the report noted that few countries had ever managed to sustain for several decades the primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP expected of Greece." In other words, the holly grail of massive and continuous long-term primary surpluses - the sole pillar underpinning previous positive assessments of the Greek debt sustainability by the IMF - is now gone. Realism prevails - no country can sustain such surpluses indefinitely. Surprisingly, IMF continues to insist on 3.5% primary surpluses target.

As a reminder, IMF has called for official sector debt write downs for Greece in the past. It still insists on the same (per technical team), but does nothing from the political leadership point of view.

Conclusion: IMF is now fully torn between its political wing - dominated by the EU representation and leadership - and its technical side. Unlike a unified and functional World Bank (led by the US), the IMF has fallen into the European orbit of dysfunctional politicking and funding programmes that are far from consistent with IMF-own standards. (To see some evidence of this, read this excellent essay from Bruegel). 

IMF's role in the Greek bailout 3.0 will go down in history as a direct participation in the wilful re-writing of the European system of governance to embrace politicised leadership over calm and effective economic policy structuring. As per Eurogroup, there is no longer any doubt that the euro area leadership is wilfully incapable of resolving the Greek crisis. Incompetence no longer counts - the euro area finance ministers and prime ministers had all necessary information to arrive at the only logical conclusion: debt writedowns are needed and are needed upfront. They opted to ignore these so politics can prevail over economics and finance, allowing for subsequent consolidation of the euro area systems and institutions without a clear path for any member state to deviate from such.

Greece is just the first roadkill on this path.


Update: WSJ covers the topic of IMF dilemma.

13/7/15: Sit Back and Watch That Eurogroup Unanimity Evaporate


Following the marathon meetings (14 hours-long Eurogroup followed by 17 hours-long Euro Council) the Greek 'deal' was heralded in the media and the markets as some sort of the Great Revelation - a solution to fix all prior non-solutions, a final fixing of the Greek economy and the end to all the endless bailouts of the past.

Of course, cynics noted that solving debt overhang (already officially recognised by the IMF as unsustainable) by issuing more debt may not be a good idea… but cynics are here to be ignored by the Euro optimists who define their own reality.

But never mind all the 'long run' stuff. Five hours into a 'unanimous' Eurogroup decision on Greece, there is neither much of a unanimity, nor much of a decision left.

Eurogroup agreed, amongst other things, that:

  • Greece will be - in principle - granted new funding of some EUR82-86 billion. The future is preliminary and will have to be finalised to fully reflect the economic conditions deterioration since January, as well as other factors. In addition to fiscal funding, these money will also be used to recapitalize Greek banks (current running estimate is for EUR10-25 billion in recaps, but the actual amount will not be known until there is a full and 'comprehensive' assessment of the banks books (to be carried out in September-December 2015).
  • While nothing is certain about this 'longer term' EUR82-86 billion package, there are immediate needs for funds that Greece has to meet. With today's missed IMF repayment, there's EUR4.934 billion due in the rest of July. There's EUR1.544 billion overdue from June. And there's EUR4.188 billion due in August. Total of EUR6.477 billion is due to the ECB alone. There is no expectation that the 'long term' package will be ready before much of this comes due, so Greece will clearly need a 'bridge financing' arrangement. There is an added 'complication': before ECB can be paid (a default on ECB will trigger a cascade of cross-defaults and a closing of the banks' oxygen line, the ELA), the IMF arrears have to be cleared in full. 


The 'bridge financing' should be a walk in the park, right? After all, there is a unanimous agreement to set new funding for the longer term, and a part of this is the recognition that before such an agreement is struck, there is a unanimous (one assumes) agreement that Greece needs to be helped through the intermediate period.

Unanimity bit

Today, there was a shorter Eurogroup meeting to sort that little bit of 'unanimity' out. And the conclusion was: err… no unanimity and:

  1. A new delay in sorting out longer-term financing (from today's morning expectation of 2 weeks to more realistic 4 weeks); and
  2. There is no agreement on bridge financing. Worse, per Dijsselbloem: "We looked at the issue of bridge financing because there are urgent needs and this process of finalising an agreement will take time… This is very complex, we looked at a number of possibilities, but there are technical, legal, financial and political issues to consider, so we have tasked an ad-hoc working group of technical experts to look into that".

Finland's Fin Min Alexander Stubb said that "Greek Bridge Financing Still an Open Question. I foresee those negotiations being very difficult because I don't see many countries having a mandate to give money without any conditions." Oops… as they say in Helsinki. Slovakia's Government has stated they oppose any lending to Greece, including both bridge and long term financing. Austria, Estonia, The Netherlands and a number of other countries will need to approve every move via their parliaments. All three been pretty sceptical on 'bridge financing' from July 6th on. Slovenia is set against the bridge funding too.

And then there's Germany - which is, for now, sitting pretty quiet on the topic, but don;t expect an easy push over from Merkel - Schäuble duo. After all, the latter has managed to square off with Mario Draghi on the topic of ECB operations in a nasty exchange yesterday.


Beyond the unanimity bit... logistics

Beyond the unanimity bit, there's a technicality or logistics of structuring the deal… bridge financing is hard to construct, given the Byzantine (actually far worse, by now) European institutions.

There are basically two possible options.

Option 1: Using EFSM bailout fund to loan money to Greece. The option is easier, as it does not require unanimity, but can be passed on the basis of QMV. The fund, however, does not have enough money to finance July-August liabilities due on the Greek side. Reportedly, the EFSM only has EUR11.5 billion available (although some reports put the figure at EUR13.2 billion). And EFSM is no longer an active lender, since it is superseded by another fund, the ESM. Even when the EFSM was operative, it was limited to co-funding bailouts with IMF involvement. IMF is not a party to any bridging loans arrangements, and indeed is not a party to the entire Bailout 3.0 package agreed 'in principal' this am. Added complication: EFSM can be activated by a qualified majority, but a QMV of EU28, not euro area alone. Back in 2011, Britain voted against the use of the EFSM to bail out Greece for a second time.

Option 2: Greece funding itself via issuance of T-bills, selling these to the banks with the banks using ECB ELA to finance these purchases. Which carries two problems with it. One, ECB is yet to hike ELA. Two, T-bills are short term bonds and Greece is constantly rolling over substantial quantity of them in the markets. Issuing more will clearly impair Greek Government ability to secure short term funding. And it will also likely trigger serious discontent within euro area 'core' states - the hawks that 'guard' ECB's prohibition on 'monetary financing'.

Option 3: A combination of Option 2 and bilateral loans. The problems, in addition to Option 2 is that some countries (Finland and Slovakia - explicitly, Germany and the Netherlands, for now implicitly) have ruled out participating in the scheme. Which makes such lending a tough sell for other member states. Italy stated already that it will only supply bilateral loans if all other euro area states do so.

Option 4: Using SMP profits accumulated at the ECB and in the national central banks from Greek bonds coupon payments to lend to Greece from ECB to repay ECB and IMF loans. Problem here is that 2014 profits still retained amount to EUR1.9 billion, while 2015 profits yet to be paid amount to 1.4 billion. Clearly not enough to close the gap.


Update 14/7/2015: FT blog on the Eurogroup technical paper outlining options for Greek bridge financing is here: http://www.ft.com/intl/fastft/359551


12/7/15: Instead of Abating, Greek Crisis Just Accelerated


Per latest reports, Eurogroup estimates Greek funding needs at EUR82-86 billion - a far cry from EUR53.5 billion requested from ESM. EUR10-25 billion needed for banking sector (because bailing out European states must always involve bailing out banks).

In order to continue funding discussions, Greece is required to pass the following 12 measures before Wednesday:
Source: @eurocrat 

The list is at best - silly:

  • Measures 1-3, and 6 are effectively MOU for a bailout, but without an actual bailout commitments;
  • Measures 4,  7-9, and 11 require significant time to properly draft, let alone implement;
  • Measure 12 is senile - no one has ejected Institutions from Athens (they don't require a visa to travel there);
  • Measures 5 and 10 are pro-forma.
Can anyone seriously expect any Government addressing the issues of banks recapitalisation and recovery, plus the issue of non-performing loans within a span of 3 days?

Besides all of this, the key point is that the 12 measures outlined effectively fully and comprehensively pushes Greece into worse adjustments package than anything put forward prior to the Greek referendum. And all this achieves is... brings Greece back comes Wednesday to face more negotiations over additional measures. 


Below are the four pages of key document from the Eurogroup



Source: @giopank

Alternative link to same: http://www.real.gr/DefaultArthro.aspx?page=arthro&id=432281&catID=22

Items that were not agreed upon are in the brackets. These include: nominal debt haircuts.

There is also a proposed escrow 'company' to hold EUR50 billion of Greek assets as collateral (titles to state properties) in Luxembourg (which is neither enforceable, nor serious). 

In simple terms, Greek choice is now stark and simple: accept complete control over the economy and assets from Brussels/Frankfurt or 'temporary' Grexit for 5 years with possible haircuts to debt. Germany et al just accelerated the crisis... next move: Greece.