Open Europe Blog

The IMF  released its latest review of the Greek bailout on Wednesday. As might be expected it was a bit more critical than the version released by the European Commission and ECB a couple of days ago.

As also might be expected the press has focused on the fact that the report reveals an €11bn funding gap for Greece between 2014 and 2016 (higher than that suggested by the eurozone). The report also calls for the eurozone to consider further debt relief for Greece. Neither of these revelations is brand new, with both having been included in the leaked version of the Troika report a few weeks ago.

There are a couple of other interesting points in the 207 page report, including some concrete forecasts on the shares of Greek debt.

These amounts are pretty much as we predicted back in March 2012, where we forecast that by 2015 around 76% of Greek debt could be held by the IMF and eurozone (NB – it’s not clear how the ECB and national central banks holdings of debt [circa €40bn] are classified in the IMF figures. If they fall under private sector here, then the holdings by official creditors may well be higher in reality).

In any case, these amounts drive home that the real question facing Greece and the eurozone (after the German elections) is whether to write down these ‘official creditors’ or not – known as ‘official sector involvement’ (OSI). There will likely be a push to extend the loans further and cut their interest rates but, as the funding gap highlights, there are immediate liquidity and solvency questions facing Greece.

Other interesting points in the report include:

  • The IMF warning of further social unrest: “The risk of political instability remains acute, especially in light of high unemployment and on-going social hardship. Further ambitious fiscal adjustment is needed for public sector debt to decline steadily, which exacerbates the possibility of social stress and political resistance.”
  • Arrears clearance seems to be behind schedule with only €1.4bn of the targeted €4.5bn being paid off. However, Kathimerini reports that this has now been increased to €4bn according to Greek government data.
  • Greece only just manages to quality for IMF assistance, with the IMF saying, “The program continues to satisfy the substantive criteria for exceptional access but with little to no margin.” The explanation involves a few stretches on the debt sustainability front, with the fund arguing, “The risk of international systemic spill overs in case of a permanent interruption of the program remains high and justifies exceptional access.” This raises an interesting question of whether, with the OMT and talk of a eurozone turnaround, the spill over effects are still significant enough to justify such IMF action?
  • The comments by Paulo Nogueira Batista, the Latin American representative on the IMF board, who slammed the overly optimistic assumptions in the debt sustainability analysis and suggested the programme was flawed. He has since backtracked from his comments, while the Brazilian government has issued its support for the bailout programme. Nevertheless, the outburst is a timely reminder of the on-going disputes behind the scenes in the IMF, between the US/Europe and the emerging market countries.
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