The crisis caused by the inability of the Greek government to service the national debt

February 15, 2019 Critical Thinking

The crisis caused by the inability of the Greek government to service the national debt, and its subsequent appeal for emergency assistance to the IMF and the EU became for the European Union, perhaps the biggest shock since the failure of the European Constitution in referendums in France and Holland (2005).

Among the fundamental causes of the debt crisis in Greece, most Western experts call ‘profligacy’ and the irresponsibility of its authorities, who for many years actively increased borrowing in the international credit market, without taking measures to solve the problems of poor tax collection and overcome the structural weaknesses of the Greek economy. Its structural weakness is most often explained as a high share of state participation and high employment of the population in the public sector, low efficiency of state-owned companies, especially in the transport sector, as well as high priority development of the tourism industry in conditions when other sectors of the Greek economy (first of all, industrial) lose competitiveness.(Nelson, Belkin & Mix, 2011)

Against the background of the growth of negative trends in the Greek economy, Athens has for years been increasing budget expenditures and public debt, providing the European Union with deliberately inaccurate financial reports. As it became known in early 2010, a number of banks, in particular, American Goldman Sachs, helped Greece to hide the true scale of its public debt, using a FX currency swaps mechanism. (Balzli, 2010)

The huge scale of financial manipulation came to light when, as a result of the elections in October 2009, the socialists came to power in the country, who severely criticized the activities of the previous government of the center-right party “New demo-kratia”. Official statistics on the state budget deficit were radically revised: in 2008 – from 5.0 to 7.7% of GDP, in 2009 – from 3.7 to 12.5% (and later to 15.4%) . The European public was surprised to learn that Greece’s national debt reached € 273 billion, i.e. 115% of this country’s GDP is the highest among the developed countries (according to the results of the statistics revision at the end of 2010, Eurostat issued the figure of 126.8% of GDP), and the state financial statements, which showed relative well-being for many years, were frankly falsified.

These revelations and harsh criticism of the EU leadership towards the Greek authorities triggered the development of the Greek debt crisis. It is worth noting that the government of the country was forced to disclose real data on the state of the budget deficit, since it was impossible to ignore such a “hole” in the budget: the European Commission and Eurostat insisted on clarifying the real situation and correcting the statistical data. And if the new Greek government did not go to these measures, it would have to cover the machinations of its political predecessors and thereby incur complicity.

After the outbreak of scandal, the market value of servicing Greek government bonds and the price of insurance against a sovereign default began to rise sharply