Tuesday, July 7, 2015

EURO DOOM: The Greek vote, another significant step towards scrapping or rethinking the EURO as it is

The time has come to shake the fundamental construction of the EURO ZONE.

The Greek government has gambled its existence and won. The technocrats in Europe had stepped up a strong rhetoric in Greece availing themselves of some good connections in the press industry but it wasn't enough.

As we reported before back in 2011 (http://emerging-markets-investment-news.blogspot.com/2011/07/critical-juncture-euro-usd.html): the EURO project as it is has failed, and the latest is just the apex of this failure so far but we believe that more is coming, and depending on the tactics used now to handle the Greek situation an anti EURO domino effect could be in play.

Austerity measures have had an adverse effect across the entire set of the southern countries of the Euro zone: Greece, Spain, Portugal and the big elephant in the room: ITALY.
Anti EURO sentiments have been flaring in all countries together with some separatist movements.

In Spain the Podemos movement, in Italy the Lega Nord and the "Movimento 5 Stelle" (M5S) embody the anti euro sentiment growing in the south of Europe.

Austerity measures have brought unemployment, they have NOT reduced the debt/gdp ratio, have impoverished the poor and created further distance from the cast of technocrats and "main" street (Point 6 & 7 below for proof).

It has now come the time to reconsider some of the common well advertised misconception that have been used to ride the austerity measures till now and for simplicity we will use Greece as a base for our discussion, please note that the same reasoning have been applied to Spain, Portugal and Italy.

1.  Greek people retire too early!

Following is a graph visually representing the impact of pension reforms on the average effective retirement age from the labor force:


The graph shows in blue the long term (2060) pensionable age before the pension reform and in red AFTER the pension reforms enacted by the various governments. Pre-Austerity Greece (indicated with the two letters EL) had an average pensionable age set at 61.9 years for male, in line with the rest of Europe.

After the reforms Greek citizen will retire gradually later than Italians and all other Europeans, excluding Cypriots, Danish and Dutch citizen.
IF there are certain privileged segments of the populations that retire earlier (called baby-pensioners) this is true across the entire Western countries and not only for Greece.

2.  In Greece there are too many public servants: FALSE!

The following graph shows the ratio of public servants employed against the total employed population.


The data shows the ration between 1999 and 2007.
In Greece the public servants represent less than 8% of the total employed population. In Germany it is 8%! Greece is right on par with the rest of Europe, bar right from Greece marked as EZ.
In France as a term of comparison public servants almost represent 10% of the total employed population.
As a very important note: with austerity measures no European country has decreased the number of public servants as much as Greece has done to-date. In 2009 public servants were 907,351 and in 2014 they were 651,717. That is 255,634 units less for a total of 25% less! Greece post austerity would find itself at the very right of the graph above.

3.  Public spending is too high: FALSE


In the graph you can appreciate the average public spending value against the total GDP between 1999 and 207. Italy has been put in red as a point of reference. Greece is below the Eurozone average (EZ12 - EU27) and it is distant from the 50% of public spending against total GDP surpassed by France for example. This value has gone from 47% in the year 2000 to 43% in the year 2006.

4.  Greece hasn't implemented any structural reforms: FALSE
Cuts in the public sector and in the pension systems have been rather dramatic. Collective negotiations via trade unions have been overall eliminated all together, although the Tsipras government would like to reinstate them. Furthermore, Greece was in 2010 at the 109th place in the standings of the countries most convenient to open a new company and do business. In 2015 in the same standings Greece is now at the 61th place and has climbed tenths of positions getting close to Italy and all other "advanced" economies. Assuming that a flexible workforce is one of the most sought after criteria for development as per the "ease of doing business" criteria, Greece has made significant relative improvements, most than any other European "partners".


5.  Greek people work little: FALSE


Please don't confuse work time with productivity. It is clear that in spite of the longer hours the productivity of the hours is not at the same level let's say with Germany given the different type of infrastructure and industrial development between the two countries.

6.  Greece's crisis is determined by the high public debt: FALSE
The graph below shows the relationship between Public and Private debt leading to the 2008 world crisis.


Greece public debt remains constant during the entire period at around 115%, lower than the Italian one for example. It is the private debt that starts to run away after the fixed exchange rate is introduced and then the country adopts the EURO.
That is because Greece all of a sudden becomes the target of foreign creditors (mostly French and German) because the interest rates with the EURO become lower and Greece can't devalue its currency to bring the trade balance back to zero. Since export weren't enough, Greece finds itself financing its import with credits to the State and to foreign private institutions. At the unfolding of the world crisis of 2008 foreign credits suddenly stop and Greece is forced to austerity to pay its debt.
THEREFORE: it is a crisis of the PRIVATE debt favored by the EURO set up that strangles Greece and not a crisis generated by the PUBLIC debt as hailed by most.
IF later there is an explosion of the public debt/GDP ratio that now has reached approximately 180% from 125% in 2010 it is because AUSTERITY measures greatly increased unemployment from 7% to 25% and they have greatly reduced tax and vat revenues together with the GDP (-25%).

7.  Greece deserves austerity because doesn't pay back its debits: FALSE
As per the previous point the main debit comes from foreign banks, mostly French and German. These banks have inundated families, companies and Greek banks with money from the establishing of the fixed rate between Dracma and Euro, and even more at full establishment of the EURO till 2007. It is more convenient for Greece (companies, individuals and banks) to borrow from abroad since Greece cannot devalue its currency (and together with it its debts) and interest rates start becoming lower and lower because of the EURO. With the Lehman Brothers crisis of 2008, French and German banks stop any lending and start pretending their debts to paid off. Austerity and European loans to save "Greece" are used to save the credits of French and German banks, not to help the Greek people to stand back on their feet.

The loans of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) end up for 90% of their value in French and German banks to save them. In parallel the debts of all countries that have participated to the "saving" of a country go UP (In Italy it accounts for 40B EUR) and the Greek public debt reaches 240B EUR of ESM loans. But the debt could be considered not legitimate as it is bore by European and Greek citizen to save private banks that to exploit the EUR lent money without paying attention to the fundamentals of the economies financed.


From 2010 the exposure of French, Dutch and German banks to the Greek debt diminish greatly. The banks have been saved! Now Greece could exit the EURO but the Troika is afraid of the domino effect for the other countries with similar problems and bigger economies, see Spain and Italy.

8. Greece has cheated the numbers to enter the EURO: true, but...
With the help of Goldman Sachs and the supervision of the EU, with governments favored by the European technocrats: Neo Demokratia and Pasok. That is because Greece in the EURO was useful to Northern Europe, especially Germany to keep the value of the EURO low against the Mark. All analysts were aware of the accounting tricks of Greek/Goldman Sachs.
A similar set up has been used for Italy which didn't respect the debt/gdp ratio of the Maastricht Treaty (60%) but that has been welcomed in the EURO zone nonetheless. In fact Italy outside of the EURO zone with its currency and the ability to have its monetary policy would have proven a formidable adversary to the mercantilist policy of Germany.
Please note that even Germany and France didn't keep the 3% deficit/gdp ratio during the first years of 2000 but they have never been sanctioned for it.

Data collected:

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