Brewing Battle Over Greek Debt Relief

FT: Is Greece just about to default?
Further, to Tsipras’ (and others’) surprise, Greece now runs a big primary surplus — over 3 percent of GDP in 2016, up from balance in 2015, and still running strong into 2017, even if some of it reflects temporary factors. Sure enough, that scorching fiscal withdrawal is accompanied by output declines, yet again. But in that context, Tsipras doesn’t need new finance for the budget as is if deposit flight is contained or if ELA is uncapped. Only if deposits flee and ELA is capped will Greece spiral. But thereby the Euro pandora’s box of ECB legitimacy will bust wide open. If Tsipras is ever going to stand and fight on debt reduction — i.e., default — now is the time.

Merkel, likewise, faced with this prospect, also has good reason to pick a fight on Greek debt reduction now.

Glad as she may be that Mme Le Pen has been dispatched, at least for now, Merkel’s immediate task, faced with “Saint Emmanuel”, is to reassure her voters that she’s not going to go soft, not for him, nor the Brits, nor the Italians, and so certainly not for Tsipras. Given the resurgent SPD since Schultz, her key concern ahead of Fall elections is risk of loss of votes to her right. So a flat-out fight with the IMF and Tsipras over debt reduction, with an insistence on the German version of ECB “orthodoxy” on ELA, all under the rubric of “European rules”, has big political attractions.
Even the most pro-EU members have domestic political concerns that cause them to behave in their national interest. Overall social mood is negative in Greece, tensions are rising in Europe.

The last time Greec issued bonds into the private debt markets (2014) it marked a peak for the Greek stock market, and would soon be followed by a political battle over austerity.

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