Greece has to undertake a major restructuring of its debt to institutional lenders. It should be carefully prepared with the support of the supervisory Troika, and the condition for it is a zero budget deficit. Only in this way will the troubled Mediterranean country be able to get back on its feet and to start living on what it produces. This theory was evolved by Nobel Laureate in Economics in 1999, Robert Mundell, who received the prize for his lecture on optimum currency areas to the Greek Alumni Association of Columbia University in New York, where he is a professor of economics.
"Greece's problem is its huge debt and it has to be restructured. But in order for this to happen, a guarantee is needed that the country will not accumulate a new debt after that. I.e., the country's budget deficit has to be zero and the state has to agree to keep it at that level. And this is a political problem", said the Nobel Prize-winning economist. He said that Greece should openly discuss this issue with its creditors and together they should find a final amount which is able to be paid, and the remainder of the debt should simply be written off. "It is clear to everybody that Greece cannot pay the debt it has accumulated. But the country has to prove that it is financially disciplined," concluded Robert Mundell.
The professor believes that after the debt crisis in the eurozone, governments have already understood that loans must be an emergency measure, to be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, for example, if you are fighting with your neighbour and you need money for defence. But you cannot constantly live on loans. "I don't believe that GREXIT would be such a catastrophe. It is true that once you open the door, maybe someone else will go out, but I don't see which country would like to leave the eurozone," he said.
According to him the chances of Greece leaving the eurozone are not more than 25 per cent, firstly, because no country wants to chase it away and secondly, because for Greece itself it is better to remain there. "Even debt restructuring is not a reason for this to happen, on the contrary - it is better for Greece to restructure its debt within the eurozone", said Robert Mundell to the audience, which consisted of businessmen, politicians, such as former PASOK deputy Eleni Panariti, and former New Democracy Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas, economists like Miranda Xafa, journalists and diplomats, like the ambassadors of the United States and Canada in Athens.
He reviewed the economies of the eurozone countries in the last 10-12 years and found that their stay in the euro area has led to an increase in their gross domestic product. "In 2008, Greece was the country with the highest growth in GDP in the eurozone. Even after the still continuing recession, the balance is positive compared with 1999. The eurozone has made Greece a European country, it has jumped ahead", concluded the economist.
He thinks that the euro is a currency with a future and potential and will not collapse soon. "History teaches us that currency unions have a long life, at least 50 years", he reminded. The Columbia University's professor is convinced that the crisis will pass and will not destroy the common European currency. "While NATO exists, the euro will exist, too. The North Atlantic Alliance is the basis for European integration. Without it, there would be no euro, nor a common market. Only peace guarantees them. And only war or bad geopolitical circumstances can destroy the euro", predicts Robert Mundell.
According to him, the reasons for the crisis in various European countries are different. In Greece, it is the accumulated debts, in Spain and Ireland it is the banks, in Italy and Portugal - the stagnation in the economy, in Cyprus - the consequences of the Greek PSI. "All these countries, however, have two things in common. Firstly, they are threatened by bankruptcy and secondly, the connection between their expenditures and revenues is destroyed", summarized the Nobel Prize Winner. And this is precisely the work of the supervisory Troika - to restore the link between revenues and expenditures in the budget, while at the same time to prevent bankruptcy or make it smooth and controllable.
He is quite sceptical as to how effective a further reduction of salaries would be, since "the wage in Germany is 32 euros per hour, in Greece it is 16 euros per hour, in Bulgaria is 6 euros per hour, in Romania - 3 euros per hour. Salaries in Greece are only 10% higher than the average for the European periphery, and this is the biggest decrease we can expect. It is not necessary to reach the salary level of the Bulgarians or the Romanians, because that would mean Greece would descend to a lower category of competition."
Robert Mundell admits that Greece has done much to reduce costs, yet much still emains to be done. "The social state died as a concept, because there is noone to pay its bills. After today's debt crisis it has become clear that the tax system cannot bear the burden of the expensive social state", concluded the famous scientist.