A haircut before the guillotine

That is how we sometimes see life. We are all dressed up, all ready, smooth shave and a decent look, all on route to the main event where we are the guest of honour at a dinner party hosted by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. Yes, we are the person on the chopping block. When death is all you look forward to, the way getting there will mean the most to anyone.

So out comes the master of coiffure, to make sure that the shave and the haircut were done to levels of excellence that you never considered before. Master tailor Marc de Luca will come and see you to make sure that the suit is one that Versace will look at with utter envy, the people on Saville Row will look with utter amazement on just how perfect a suit can be, because you must look your best on route to that once in a life time dinner party with Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, all the elements mattered the most on this one day.

So there is the setting you see when we consider ‘EU says Greece can ‘finally turn the page’ as bailout ends‘. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/20/eu-greece-bailout-ends-pierre-moscovici) gives us “Greece has turned the page to become “a normal” member of the single currency“. Yes in that regard it is nice to know that a mental health setting of ignorance when it comes to the economy, is still riding high with too many individuals. I mentioned it over 3 years ago in the article ‘Dress rehearsal (part 1)‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/07/01/dress-rehearsal-part-1/), where I stated ““Greece would face an unsustainable level of debt by 2030 even if it signs up to the full package of tax and spending reforms demanded of it, according to unpublished documents compiled by its three main creditors“, the reason that I call it questionable, is because Greece is what I call a 3G nation, which means it will take three generations for this debt to become close to manageable. So, with that I imply that the debt is still a massive form of pressure in 2061, there is no escaping it“. That part we now see with “Greece has the highest government debt in the EU, 177% of gross domestic product, and is forecast to be repaying loans until 2060“. WOW! I was off by one year and that was me using my fingers and an abacus over three years ago. Now we see that it will be all done by 2060, which is actually not a certainty. I took a few setbacks in consideration that are likely to be missing here, so considering that this started 8 years ago, we see that in the end it will take another 42 years, making my ‘three generation‘ prediction spot on. Yet the good news is not yet done. When we consider that the debt is 177% of gross domestic product, the fact that youth unemployment remains at 43.6%, as well as a few setbacks, there is merely one stupid act of starting another bonds plan and it all goes south really really fast.

The first is that with “Athens will face more exacting checks than any other Eurozone member, so Brussels can monitor whether the government’s budgets are in line with EU stability and growth targets” Greece will still be bound by some factors. The setting is a given if Greece decided to try the Goldman Sachs strategy again, the future will start to look extremely dim again at that point, with little to no hope on resolving it ever. There will always be politicians that play the fast and loose card whenever they are in a pickle, which will soon thereafter become the ‘fast and lose‘ scenario, especially for the Greek population.

Even now we see the quote: “Many analysts believe it will take a decade before Greece returns to pre-crisis living standards following a slump in which its economy contracted by 25% and unemployment peaked at 28%“, I am not convinced that it will be that quick. It might be if serious investors can be found to pump up the Greek economy like a Google space, an Apple hub and an IBM data centre. Those steps will be a turn for the good for Greece, but without a really large player opening the field, Greece keeps on lagging behind and a decade will not be enough to set the economy back on track to the pre-crises degree stated. Furthermore, there is the consideration of “levels of extreme poverty jumped. The population has fallen by 3% because of emigration and a lower birth rate“, you see, the levels of extreme poverty also slows the recovery setting and the loss of population will not merely mean that there are less jobs required, it also means that a continuation of certain aspects can no longer happen. So the setting of parent to child implies that more and more businesses die over time lowering the GDP further, which in turn shoves the debt up by 5%-10% more than previous. So it is not the percentage, it is the €336,900,000,000 that is due its interest and that amount is not shifting merely due to the shifting GDP percentage. It is rising because 336 billion implies 6-9 billion euro of interest a year and with a population of less than 11 million, whilst we get the slightly over enthusiastic “By 2023 unemployment is forecast to fall to 14%“, yes, I’ll accept that when I see it. You see, last October it was 20.7 percent. This now give us that close to 2.5 million Greeks are not paying tax. So exactly how are they not merely getting the infrastructure paid for, but in addition to that pay for the 6-9 billion in annual interest? From my point of view the picture we are given is a rosy coloured setting of ‘Bull dung and grapes’, at which point the grapes are not that appetising anymore.

The final part is seen with “As a condition of getting debt relief, Athens agreed to the EU’s demand to run a budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP until 2022 and thereafter 2%. However, the International Monetary Fund, a co-funder of the bailouts, has long argued this goal is too onerous for a country that has endured years of belt-tightening“. That shows part of the imbalance, or merely the gross injustice to the Greek population. There is close to no way to live with the ‘a budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP until 2022‘, unless you cook the books that is, which is a purely personal speculated option. It merely seems more than an impossible task and agreeing towards demands that are unrealistic is just not acceptable and utterly inhumane.

Forbes is on my side in this. The article (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/francescoppola/2018/08/20/lessons-for-the-eurozone-from-the-greek-debt-crisis) gives us: “Fiscal austerity is on the menu for generations to come. Furthermore, if GDP takes a nosedive – as both business cycle theory and economic history tell us is almost certain to happen at some point during that time – further cuts will be necessary to meet primary surplus targets. In the light of this, the IMF has expressed serious reservation about the sustainability of Greek finances. If it is right, then the Greek crisis is not ended. It will be back with a vengeance in a decade or so“, I actually believe that ‘a decade or so‘, is a little optimistic. When we correct for Murphy (anything that can go wrong will go wrong), the tie line will shove the entire situation to the foreground by the year 2025.

The article is a really good read, mainly because it gives us in short the history on how it happened, which was essential in all this, because the danger of “in 2009 the Greek government lied about the true state of its finances, and that the pre-crisis boom had resulted in a fiscal deficit of 15% of GDP and debt/GDP of well over 100%” is a setting that is not unlikely to return in the 2023-2025 years, for a few reasons, especially when the Greeks are set in a stage of what is humanly called to be in a stage ‘without a pot to piss in‘. there will be overreactions and that is when things go from bad to worse and in that time, when there is still 35 years to go, a lot of people will re-enter new (read: even more harsh) levels of austerity.

So even when we think that the bailouts have ended, we also need to consider that this is academically correct, yet the truth is that we need to realise that in a little less than 16 months “the expensive debt to the International Monetary Fund, some 2.6 billion euros of which is due by the end of 2019” (source: Bloomberg), apart from the interest, posts like the maturing bonds come out to play and that is in this case well over 2.6 billion, also we need to consider ‘the interest Greece has to pay on bonds is still too high at about 4.2 percent‘, there we see that the additional pressures that Greece gets from refinancing all those bonds come at a huge cost. In addition to that part, we also need to notice ‘National Bank of Greece issued international bonds (XS1698932925) with a 2.75% coupon for EUR 750.0m maturing in 2020‘, so where will that money be coming from? We accept that seven hundred and fifty million Euros is not a lot when you say it fast, but in lieu of the outstanding debts, the budget surplus as well as bond maturities, all that whilst the economy is not on track and will not be anywhere near that in 2020, my prediction of a new stage of defaulting by 2025 might have been slightly too optimistic.

Personally I really hope that we can find a decent solution for Greece, a solution that allows for a growing economy because Greece is an awesome place and for the most Greeks are awesome (unless you’re German at that point you’re on your own). The good news is not there yet and I personally believe that some players are still stacking the cards in a way that suits them and not Greece. I am referring to the message: ‘S&P Global Ratings upgrades Foreign Currency LT credit rating of National Bank of Greece to “B-” from “CCC+”; outlook stable‘. It was given to the people on June 6th 2018. I personally do not believe it to be correct or better stated ‘justified’. Bloomberg gave us those goods an hour ago with: ‘Greek Bad Loans Are a Drag Even after Crisis Shrank Bank Sector‘. Basically an hour ago we were treated to “the problem she saw 12 years ago lingers on — Greece’s banks are still weighed down by bad loans. That’s making them cautious about new lending, which the country’s cratered economy needs to grow again after its European bailout ended on August 20th“. Basically hidden ghosts still rock the financial cadaver of Greece and there is more to come. Do you really think that ‘stable’ is the correct word? When we consider the S&P definitions we end up getting “An obligation rated ‘B’ is more vulnerable to non-payment than obligations rated ‘BB’, but the obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitments on the obligation. Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments on the obligation“, if the entire setting relies on ‘currently‘ I end up with the consideration that this could revert to a more negative stage by years end and then we see that the costs will increase whilst the maintenance of a budget surplus is close to a nil percent possibility at that point.

If we see that this is going on and the stage is set in several ways against Greece, who was the message ‘Greece can ‘finally turn the page’‘ for? Was it for the EU and European, was it for Greece (as an optional setting of false hope) or was this as the starting signal for Wall Street? In my mind the question becomes, who exactly was The European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici catering for? Perhaps it is less complicated, perhaps he was merely acting as the maître des cérémonies for Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. To set the stage, where in the old days, executions by guillotine were a popular form of entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators (their version of the Roman bread and games). Perhaps that is what is needed in Europe and for now the Greek government is unaware that their status has been elevated from underdog to the proverbial ‘guest of honour’.

Yet in all this, we need to be more then sceptical, there is much doubt and most of it based on common sense. We need to realise that the setting of Greece remains close to unacceptable, these levels of austerity will have to continue not for a decade, but for several decades, mainly because until the economy gets an actual boost, the options of budget surplus seem to be so unrealistic that whatever was signed was basically signed under duress. If the CIA and others stopped torturing a terrorist because the issue was too inhumane and the intelligence was never reliable, why would you transfer such levels of inhumane economic pressure to a European ally?

In the entire Greek economic setting that one part never ever made any sense to me.

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “A haircut before the guillotine

  1. Pingback: Merely a week ago | Lawrence van Rijn - Law Lord to be

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