Zakaj bi se IMF moral opravičiti Grčiji

Ashoka Mody, dolgoletni drugi človek ekonomskega oddelka IMF za Evropo, sedaj pa profesor na Princetonu, je po odhodu z IMF, podobno kot nekateri ostali nekdanji člani Boarda IMF, postal glasen kritik “IMF-ovih operacij” v Grčiji. V zadnjem komentarju na Brueglu piše, da bi se moral IMF, ki je svoje napake glede politike do Grčije sicer že priznal, Grčiji tudi uradno opravičiti in ji odpisati dolg. Kot pravi tudi Karl Otto Pohl, nekdanji predsednik Bundesbanke, je bil temeljni cilj reševanja Grčije pred tremi leti zgolj in samo reševanje nemških in francoskih bank, pri čemer je bil dolg do zasebnega sektorja (ki bi ga bilo mogoče s pogajanji zmanjšati) zgolj zamenjan z dolgom do držav in IMF, ki pa ga je težko zmanjšati. Vsi pa vedo, da Grčija tega dolga ne more nikoli vrniti.

The Greek government’s mounting financial woes are leading it to contemplate the previously unthinkable: defaulting on a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Instead of demanding repayment and further austerity, the IMF should recognize its responsibility for the country’s predicament and forgive much of the debt.

Greece’s onerous obligations to the IMF, the European Central Bank and European governments can be traced back to April 2010, when they made a fateful mistake. Instead of allowing Greece to default on its insurmountable debts to private creditors, they chose to lend it the money to pay in full.

At the time, many called for immediately “restructuring” of privately-held debt, thus imposing losses on the banks and investors who had lent money to Greece. Among them were several members of the IMF’s Board and Karl Otto Pohl, a former president of the Bundesbank and a key architect of the euro. The IMF and European authorities responded that restructuring would cause global financial mayhem. As Pohl candidly noted, that was merely a cover for bailing out German and French banks, which had been among the largest enablers of Greek profligacy.

Ultimately, the authorities’ approach merely replaced one problem with another: IMF and official European loans were used to repay private creditors. Thus, despite a belated restructuring in 2012, Greece’s obligations remain unbearable — only now they are owed almost entirely to official creditors.

Five years after the crisis started, government debt has jumped from 130 percent of gross domestic product to nearly 180 percent. Meanwhile, a deep economic slump and deflation have severely impaired the government’s ability to repay.

Virtually everyone now agrees that pushing Greece to pay its private creditors was a bad idea. The required fiscal austerity was simply too great, causing the economy to collapse. The IMF acknowledged the error in a 2013 report on Greece. In a recent staff paper, the fund said that when a crisis threatens to spread, it should seek a collective global solution rather than forcing the distressed economy to bear the entire burden. The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, has warned that more austerity will crush growth.

Inevitably, debt relief will be provided — but in driblets and together with unrelenting pain. The Greek government will need to withhold payments to suppliers and workers, and will raid pension funds. Five years from now, the country’s economic and social stress could well be even more acute. The question will be: Why was more debt not forgiven earlier? No one is willing to confront that unpleasant arithmetic, and wishful thinking prevails.

Having failed its first Greek test, the IMF risks doing so again. It remains trapped by the priorities of shareholders, including in recent years the U.K. and Germany. To reassert its independence and redeem its lost credibility, it should write off a big chunk of Greece’s debt and force its wealthy shareholders to bear the losses.

Vir: Ashoka Mody, Brugel

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