Today (16/6/11) in Greece, the Prime Minister is trying to form a new government that will help the country tackle its large and growing debts. Austerity measures have been put in place by the Greek government and these cuts and subsequent job losses (unemployment now stands at 15.9%) have resulted in massive riots.
Critics of the eurozone and Greek membership are suggesting that the price Greece has to pay to remain a member might be too high. Billions of euros have already been given to the bankrupt country and yet it seems to have made little difference – more money is now needed, but Finance Ministers have so far been unable to agree on how best to finance another bailout. These concerns have adversely affected financial markets, as investors sell their shares in light of the economic concerns surrounding Greece. The trends in financial markets over recent weeks suggest a growing feeling that Greece may default on its debt.
If an agreement isn’t reached between European leaders and/or Greece doesn’t accept the terms, then it could spell even more trouble and not just for the Greek economy and the eurozone. Banks across Europe have lent money to Greece and if an agreement isn’t reached, then this will mean losses for the private sector. Whilst these losses may be manageable, further trouble may arise due to contagion. Other countries with substantial debts, including Spain, Ireland and Portugal could mean a significant increase in these potential losses.
As the crisis in Greece continues, doubts remain over whether the European leaders even know how to deal with the crisis and this creates a lack of confidence in the markets. Activities over the coming weeks will play a large part in the future of Greece’s eurozone membership, trends in financial markets and the direction of the UK economy. The following articles consider Greece’s debt crisis.
Greece debt crisis sends financial markets reeling BBC News (16/6/11)
Euro slumps vs Swissie, Greece intensifies concern Reuters (16/6/11)
EU and IMF agree Greek debt deal Financial Times, Peter Spiegel (16/6/11)
Greece crisis: Commissioners fear ‘future of Eurozone’ BBC News, Joe Lynam (15/6/11)
Stocks slump as Greece crisis turns violent Bloomberg Business Week, Pan Pylas (15/6/11)
Euro slides as Greek default fears deepen Financial Times, Peter Garnham (16/6/11)
Germany insists all of EU must pay for Greece bailout Guardian, Ian Traynor (15/6/11)
US stocks slump on US, Greek woes Associated Press (16/6/11)
More time to argue about Greece BBC News, Stephanie Flanders (16/6/11)
Greece: Eurozone ministers delay decision on vital loan BBC News (20/6/11)
Greece crisis: Revolution in the offing? BBC News, Gavin Hewitt (19/6/11)
Greece crisis: Not Europe’s Lehman (it could be worse) BBC News, Robert Peston (20/6/11)
Greek debt crisis: eurozone ministers delay decision on €12bn lifeline Guardian, Ian Traynor (20/6/11)
Eurozone must act before Greek crisis leads to global meltdown, IMF warns Guardian, Larry Elliott (20/6/11)
Greece: Private-sector voluntary aid may be impossible BBC News, Robert Peston (21/6/11)
Greece crisis and the best way to cook a lobster BBC News, Stephanie Flanders (22/6/11)
- What is meant by contagion and why is this a potential problem?
- What are the options open to European leaders to finance the bail out?
- If an agreement is not reached or Greece do no accept the terms, how might the UK economy be affected?
- What has been the impact of recent events in Greece and Europe on financial markets and currencies across the world? Explain your answer.
- Why are critics suggesting that the price of Greece remaining in the Eurozone might be too high? If Greece was not a member state what would it mean it could do differently to help it deal with its mounting debts?
Growth figures across many countries still remain vulnerable, including the UK, where growth lies at only 0.5%. Despite some countries starting to grow more rapidly, the numbers still remain close to 0. The eurozone area is a particularly interesting case, as there are so many individual countries that are all interdependent. So, despite growth in the eurozone area increasing to 0.8% in the first three months of 2011, which is higher than that for the UK, this doesn’t explain the full story in the area. Germany has grown by 1.5% and it is this figure which has largely contributed to the 0.8% figure. It was also helped by growth of 1% in France and incredibly of 0.8% in Greece, despite its huge debts. The growth in Greece is allegedly down to a better export market.
Why then wasn’t the figure higher? Whilst countries like Germany showed an acceleration in demand, growth remained sluggish in Spain and Italy at only 0.1% and 0.3% respectively and Portugal faced the second consecutive quarter of negative growth and so has officially gone back into recession. This situation may get even worse as the austerity measures put in place by the EU and IMF take effect. One of the key arguments against joining the eurozone is that the policies implemented are never going to be in the best interests of any one country. With some countries beginning to grow more quickly and others remaining sluggish, what should happen to macroeconomic policy? Should interest rates remain low in a bid to boost aggregate demand or should they rise as other countries see accelerating growth?
An interesting question here is why do countries, such as Italy, Spain and Portugal struggle, whilst France and Germany begin their recovery? One obvious explanation is that Germany and France are at the heart of the eurozone, where as Spain, Portugal and Italy remain on the periphery. Ken Wattret at BNP Paribas said:
“The periphery are getting the worst of both worlds. The core countries like Germany are doing really well and that’s keeping the euro strong, and it’s making the ECB [European Central Bank] more inclined to tighten policy.”
If the ECB do go ahead with a tightening of monetary policy, it could spell further trouble for those countries on the periphery of the Euro area that would benefit from interest rates remaining low and a weaker Euro. The following articles look at the conflicts within the 2-speed Eurozone.
Sterling lags euro on growth outlook; trails dollar Reuters (13/5/11)
Eurozone’s growth surprises as UK lags behind Telegraph, Emma Rowley (13/5/11)
Eurozone’s economic growth accelerates BBC News (13/5/11)
Solid finances help drive German economic revival Financial Times, Ralph Atkins (13/5/11)
UK’s economy in the slow lane as eurozone surges Scotsman, Scott Reid (14/5/11)
Euro growth eclipses rivals despite north-south divergences AFP, Roddy Thomson (13/5/11)
Eurozone economic growth data prompts political clash BBC News (13/5/11)
Fresh fears for UK economy as Germany and France power ahead Guardian, Larry Elliott (13/5/11)
Portugal’s GDP is set to shrink this year and next Wall Street Journal, Alex Macdonald and Patricia Kowsmann (14/5/11)
UK GDP Growth National Statistics
Eurozone growth rates ECB
EU countries’ Growth rates of GDP in volume Eurostat News Release (13/5/11)
Real GDP growth rate for EU countries and applicant countries, EEA countries and USA and Japan Eurostat
- What has contributed to the German, French and Greek economies surging ahead?
- Why is there such a north-south divergence in growth within the eurozone?
- What is the most suitable monetary policy for those countries growing more strongly?
- What is the best direction for interest rates and hence the value of the euro for countries, such as Spain, Italy and Portugal?
- ’The UK economy would be in a worse position if it were a member of the eurozone’. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against this statement?
- What is the relationship between interest rates, the exchange rate and growth?