Economically, the new program is perverse, because it will plunge Greece deeper into depression. It envisages raising additional taxes, cutting pensions further, and implementing automatic spending cuts if fiscal targets are missed. But it provides no basis for recovery or growth. The Greek economy is already in free-fall, and structural reforms alone will not reverse the downward spiral.
The agreement continues to require primary budget surpluses (net of interest payments), rising to 3.5% of GDP by 2018, which will worsen Greece’s slump. Re-profiling the country’s debt, which is implicitly part of the agreement, will do nothing to ameliorate this, given that interest payments already are minimal through the end of the decade. As the depression deepens, the deficit targets will be missed, triggering further spending cuts and accelerating the economy’s contraction.
Eventually, the agreement will trigger Grexit, either because the creditors withdraw their support after fiscal targets are missed, or because the Greek people rebel. Triggering that exit is transparently Germany’s intent.
Greece deserves better. It deserves a program that respects its sovereignty and allows the government to establish its credibility over time. It deserves a program capable of stabilizing its economy rather than bleeding it to death. And it deserves support from the ECB to enable it to remain a eurozone member.
Europe deserves better, too. Other European countries should not in good conscience accede to this politically destructive, economically perverse program. They should remind themselves that Greece had plenty of help from its European partners in getting to this point. They must continue to push for a better deal.
Vir: Barry Eichengreen, Project Syndicate