Photo: Wall Street Journal
The Greek Public Debt Management Agency issued three-month bills worth one billion and 625 million euros and was able to sell them at the interest rate of 4.10%. The last time Greece appeared on the international markets to borrow money in February the interest rate was 3.85%. Analysts explain the increase in the interest rate with the bustle about the possible restructuring of the Greek debt.
The wave of statements on the possible debt restructuring started the German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, who announced that the German Government has assigned private experts to assess whether Greece is able to pay its debt. The evaluation results will be announced in June. Then, during the weekend, oil on the fire poured the former Primer Minister Costas Simitis, who in an interview with the Vima newspaper called on the government to proceed to the debt restructuring as soon as possible, because it would set free many hidden forces of the Greek economy. And Die Welt quoted on Monday a Greek minister who stated that the government of George Papandreou has grown for the idea of debt restructuring.
As a result, the interest rates on short maturity bills jumped and the spread yield of 10-year Greek bonds set up its next record and reached 1140 bps. For comparison, the Portuguese spread yield reached 595 basis points and the Irish - 690 bp.
"Though a debt-default would hurt, investors may not give up on Greece," states the today's issue of Wall Street Journal. The author of the article Paul Hannon argues that even if Greece strictly implements the Memorandum of support by the IMF and the European Union its borrowing costs would be very high even in 2017. He cited a study of the Royal Economic Society in Britain, which examined 202 cases of debt restructuring between 1970 and 2007 in 68 countries and the conclusion was unequivocal - the more a country haircuts its debt, the more the borrowing costs increase once the restructuring is announced. In other words, even if the investors have lost money from the bonds of a specific country, they are seeking to recover their losses by investing in larger interest.
Of course, every rule has its exceptions and in this case it is called Russia. The Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin told Russia Today TV that his country would no longer invest revenue from petroleum activities in Greek and Irish securities.
There are disputes in favour of and against the debt restructuring in Greece itself. The supporters of the idea explain that the country has borrowed various amounts from different lenders and different maturity. It should sit with its creditors at the negotiating table and negotiate the most feasible payment plan. The opponents of the idea recall that one third of the debt is to Greek banks and insurance funds. A single delay of payments to them would put at risk the investments in Greek banks and would impede the payment of pensions and salaries. Delays in debt payments would put in a difficult situation the banking system throughout the euro zone, which also bought a significant number of Greek securities.
Other economists stress that debt restructuring would not solve the biggest problem of Greece, which is that the country spends more than it produces. "Even if we start over tomorrow with no debt, we would quickly accumulate it again because we have a huge budget deficit," said Yannis Stournaras, the director of the Institute of Industrial Research in the central news of Mega TV. To reduce its deficit, Greece should focus on implementing the Memorandum of financial support, of which - in his evaluation - not more than a quarter is implemented. "Not the Memorandum is the problem of Greece, it is the solution," explicitly stated the economist.
The implementation of the Memorandum of financial support is the other great concern of the Greek government, which counts with heavy heart the days until the next visit of the supervisory Troika in Athens in the first week of May. The obvious truth is that the reforms slipped and the government fails to cope with tax evasion and the expenditure cuts in the public sector. The great expectations for a bold privatisation were dashed last Friday, when the government was expected to announce the privatisation program finally, and it just said it will do so after Easter. Well, after all said, the arrival of Mr. Paul Thompsen in Athens is not the cause for much positive emotions amongst the economic team of George Papandreou.