Friday, May 1, 2015

Varoufakis: "A new deal for Greece"

Photo of Yanis VaroufakisYanis Varoufakis wrote an interesting post on his blog, "A new deal for Greece", in which he stresses the need for "agreement on a new development model for Greece".

I think Varoufakis and the new Greek government are right in stressing the need for a wider agenda than the one usually discussed in debt negotiations.

"It requires overcoming two hurdles," says Varoufakis after a brief introduction in which he mentions the agreement reached so far between Greece and its creditors - "We and our partners already agree on much."

"First, we must concur on how to approach Greece’s fiscal consolidation. Second, we need a comprehensive, commonly agreed reform agenda that will underpin that consolidation path and inspire the confidence of Greek society.
Beginning with fiscal consolidation, the issue at hand concerns the method. The “troika” institutions (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) have, over the years, relied on a process of backward induction: They set a date (say, the year 2020) and a target for the ratio of nominal debt to national income (say, 120%) that must be achieved before money markets are deemed ready to lend to Greece at reasonable rates. Then, under arbitrary assumptions regarding growth rates, inflation, privatization receipts, and so forth, they compute what primary surpluses are necessary in every year, working backward to the present.
The result of this method, in our government’s opinion, is an “austerity trap.” When fiscal consolidation turns on a predetermined debt ratio to be achieved at a predetermined point in the future, the primary surpluses needed to hit those targets are such that the effect on the private sector undermines the assumed growth rates and thus derails the planned fiscal path. Indeed, this is precisely why previous fiscal-consolidation plans for Greece missed their targets so spectacularly.
Our government’s position is that backward induction should be ditched. Instead, we should map out a forward-looking plan based on reasonable assumptions about the primary surpluses consistent with the rates of output growth, net investment, and export expansion that can stabilize Greece’s economy and debt ratio. If this means that the debt-to-GDP ratio will be higher than 120% in 2020, we devise smart ways to rationalize, re-profile, or restructure the debt – keeping in mind the aim of maximizing the effective present value that will be returned to Greece’s creditors.
Besides convincing the troika that our debt sustainability analysis should avoid the austerity trap, we must overcome the second hurdle: the “reform trap.” ...

I also copy the last two, interesting paragraphs:

"The current disagreements with our partners are not unbridgeable. Our government is eager to rationalize the pension system (for example, by limiting early retirement), proceed with partial privatization of public assets, address the non-performing loans that are clogging the economy’s credit circuits, create a fully independent tax commission, and boost entrepreneurship. The differences that remain concern how we understand the relationships between the various reforms and the macro environment.
None of this means that common ground cannot be achieved immediately. The Greek government wants a fiscal-consolidation path that makes sense, and we want reforms that all sides believe are important. Our task is to convince our partners that our undertakings are strategic, rather than tactical, and that our logic is sound. Their task is to let go of an approach that has failed."

- for the full Varoufakis blog post click  HERE

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