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NEWS ARCHIVE - March 2015

March 31, 2015

Greece leaving the euro might not be a bad thing, says Warren Buffett - UK Telegraph

"If it turns out the Greeks leave, that may not be a bad thing for the euro," Mr Buffett told CNBC. He said that member countries could come to better agreements about fiscal policy if Greece left the single currency.

"If everybody learns that the rules mean something and if they come to general agreement about fiscal policy among members or something of the sort, they mean business, that could be a good thing," Mr Buffett said.

A mishap should not seal Greece’s fate - Financial Times

"Since the election of Greece’s Syriza-led government, negotiations over its place in Europe have gone terribly, with posturing on one side and annoyance on the other. An accidental exit from the eurozone has become quite likely. This is not because Greece wants it nor because its partners are set upon it. It is because Greece is running out of hope, its partners are running out of patience and the negotiations are running out of time.

...It has been evident since the government was elected that it would take time to learn whether a fruitful agreement could be reached. It is necessary to “buy” that time. In seeking to reach a deal, it would also be helpful to put destructive moralism to one side. The creditor side considers its generosity to profligate Greeks exemplary. The Greeks believe that private lenders were guilty of irresponsible lending, that the “rescue” was not of Greece but of those selfsame careless lenders and, above all, that Greeks have suffered enough. Both positions have merit. But no good will come from hurling such charges at one another."

Here's the 'ugly scenario' that's about to happen if Greece doesn't get a bailout deal-Business Insider

"So what happens if Greece doesn't get the cash?

Here's what Bank of America Merrill Lynch's researchers call "the ugly scenario":

In this scenario, Greece fails to demonstrate a credible commitment to reforms in the next few weeks. In this case, the Europeans and the IMF suspend the current program, the ECB refuses to continue increasing the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (or just lets the Greek banks run out of eligible collateral), the loss of bank deposits accelerates triggering a full bank run, and Greece defaults to the IMF and the ECB. Unless any of these shocks force the Greek government to go back and seek a deal with the rest of Europe, Grexit within this year becomes inevitable, in our view. In this scenario, either Europe would offer it as an option, allowing Greece to remain in the EU, or it would become Greece’s only option to avoid a complete collapse of the economy and even a failed state.

A payment to the International Monetary Fund is due April 9..."

Mobius: Greece is so cheap right now, we’re already buying - Market Watch

“Greece will remain in the eurozone. There is no question,” Mobius said in the interview published on Tuesday. “The stock market is cheap, and we are buyers.”

In particular, the country’s banking sector would be a win, given valuations that are “particularly attractive to us,” he said. His company, Franklin Templeton Investments, has already made a bet on National Bank of Greece ETE, +0.91% which saw its shares rise 2.7% on Tuesday.

The Athex Composite Index GD, +0.98% jumped 0.8% to 779.22 on Tuesday, a sharp contrast to the rest of Europe where most major benchmarks were mired in the red. For the quarter, however, the Greek index is down 5.7%, a far cry from the 16% logged by the pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -0.47% or the 22% seen in Germany DAX, -0.69%

March 30, 2015

Germany says Greece must flesh out reforms to unlock aid - Reuters

"Greece's biggest creditor Germany said on Monday that the euro zone would give Athens no further financial aid until it has a more detailed list of reforms and some are enacted into law, adding to scepticism over plans presented last week. A senior

official in Brussels on Sunday had dismissed the list as "ideas" rather than a plan that Greece could submit to EU and IMF lenders to avoid running out of cash next month."

"Greece Can No Longer Kick the Can Down the Road" — WSJ Moneybeat

"Approval is crucial for Greece to regain access to bailout funds and restore normal lending from the ECB, but the signs don’t look encouraging: eurozone officials said the plans lacked the necessary detail, with one eurozone official calling them “piecemeal” and “vague”, and that could mean Greece may go several more weeks without the cash it sorely needs.

Athens main stock index was a little over 1% lower by mid-morning. Banks were hit particularly hard. Alpha Bank AE shares slid to the bottom of the index, followed by National Bank of Greece SA.

The yield on the country’s two-year bonds was around 0.43 percentage point higher in early trade at around 20.3% while the yield on 10-year bonds inched up to around 10.87%."

Tsipras faces parliament grilling - Yahoo News

"Greece's government says the reforms would help raise an extra three billion euros for its coffers without resorting to wage and pension cuts.

Rival parties have accused the prime minister of reneging on his election promises, claiming that he has secretly conceded austerity reforms in order to unlock the last tranche of aid funds by the end-April deadline.

In April, Athens needs to roll over 2.4 billion euros in short-term debt and repay another 820 million euros, including 460 million euros to the International Monetary Fund."

March 29, 2015

Fitch downgrades Greece’s rating to 'CCC' -

"International ratings agency Fitch has downgraded Greece’s sovereign rating from B to CCC ahead of the agency's next scheduled review, amid worries that the country is defaulting on its sovereign debt.

Fitch also downgraded Greece's short-term foreign currency issuer default rating (IDR) from B to C, the agency said in a press release on Friday. The ratings agency revised the country's ceiling as well, lowering it from BB to B-."

Greece submits new list of reforms to unlock further aid - Reuters

"Greece has sent its creditors a long-awaited list of reforms with a pledge to produce a small budget surplus this year in the hope that it will unlock badly needed cash, Greek government officials said on Friday.

The new list includes measures to boost state revenues by 3 billion euros this year, but will not include any "recessionary measures" like wage or pension cuts, a government official said.

The list estimates a primary budget surplus of 1.5 pct for 2015 - below the 3 percent target included in the country's existing EU/IMF bailout - and growth of 1.4 percent, the official said."

Greece condemns British refusal of mediation on Parthenon sculptures - Yahoo News

"For the past 30 years Athens has been demanding the return of the sculptures which had decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens from ancient times.

"We deplore the categorical refusal by the British of UNESCO's invitation to launch a mediation process over the Parthenon sculptures housed in the British Museum," said Nikos Xydakis, a Greek culture minister, in a statement.

"The British negativism is overwhelming, along with its lack of respect for the role of mediators," he added.

The UN cultural agency had offered to mediate between Greece and Britain over the ancient artworks during a meeting in October 2014."

Greece Rethinks China Port Sale - ME

"As Greece races to raise funds, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis told China's official Xinhua news agency that Athens will sell its majority stake in the port of Piraeus within weeks, a flip-flop from its previous position.

Speaking during a visit by Greek officials to China, Dragasakis hinted that Chinese firm Costco Group - short-listed in a process launched by the previous center-right government - was a front runner for the state's 67 percent stake.

And as Greece seeks to fill its state coffers, the Russian ambassador to Athens told Kathimerini newspaper that Moscow would examine any loan request from Greece, were it to be made."

March 27, 2015

Is The ECB Right To Play Hardball With Greece? - Forbes

"...the ECB has strictly limited the amount of liquidity which Greek banks can get through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). It has now moved to reviewing the provision on a weekly basis and tends to only increase it by a few hundred million. For example, earlier this week it increased it from €69.8bn to €71bn. While the overall amount remains high, the increases are often below what is requested by the Central Bank of Greece, which believes they do not provide enough cover for the high deposit outflows.

...Under the bailout programme there is a limit on the amount of short term debt (T bills) which Greece can issue – currently €15bn. But there are another couple of limits which the ECB enforces. The first came to a head earlier this week when the ECB legally confirmed that Greek banks can no longer buy any more short term Greek debt.

...This time around though, it [ECB] does have to take some responsibility for where it has ended up. Throughout the crisis the ECB has mixed political actions – sending covert letters trying to influence policy, altering collateral requirements for struggling states – with a rules based approach – limiting ELA based on strict criteria, only buying certain assets."

Greece to Send List of Economic Overhauls to Creditors - WSJ

"Greece will send a draft list of economic overhauls to its creditors later on Friday, which it hopes will help unlock bailout aid, two government officials said.

...Greece has accelerated its efforts on the overhaul plans in recent days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel convinced Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Berlin on Monday that there was only one way for Athens to secure the financing it needs: substantive economic overhauls.

As the county is running increasingly low on cash, it hopes that eurozone finance ministers can meet and approve its overhaul program as early as next Wednesday. "

Tsipras fails to convince his German allies - Associated Press

"While the atmosphere was good in talks between Tsipras and Chancellor Angela Merkel this week, an improvement in tone may not help resolve a standoff over the reforms required to unlock aid, according to a German government official familiar with the chancellor's strategy on Greece who asked not to be named because the meeting was private.

Members of Merkel's Social Democratic coalition partners, who have sought to strike a more moderate tone on Greece than her party, were left unconvinced that he can resolve the crisis.

"What's coming out of Greece is moving completely in the wrong direction," Joachim Poss, a Social Democratic lawmaker who is the party's deputy parliamentary spokesman on finance policy, said in an interview. "The situation is really worrying — we're stunned watching the developments."

...Ministers are unlikely to consider the latest proposals before the Easter holiday, an EU official said, requesting anonymity because talks are private."

Keeping your spirits up: life as a young man in Greece - Euro News

"Europe’s youth have been the worst affected by the euro-zone economic crisis. In Greece youth unemployment rose to 51.2 percent in 2014, resulting in bleak career prospects for young Greeks.

“...Being a student in Greece, feels like permanently not being able to see light at the end of a tunnel,” describes Rafael. “You study for years, yet you are aware that you will never find a job in your field,” he continues.

In addition to the dysfunctional educational system in Greece, young Greeks have to face new overwhelming challenges. “The financial crisis has ruined my dreams, my family’s, as well as those of millions of other people in this country,” Rafael says. He is worried about the time when he will have to finish his studies and find employment.

He believes that bad decisions were made in the choice of the elected representatives in many countries, resulting in a system that favours the interests of a few. “The EU is created to benefit certain countries and nothing more,” he states."

March 26, 2015

Bank deposit drain adds pressure on Tsipras- Fox News

"Greek bank deposits dropped by more than 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in February, ramping up pressure on the country's teetering financial system as its government scrambles to reach a deal with creditors.

The central bank of Greece Thursday said private and business deposits dropped to 140.5 billion euros ($154.2 billion) by the end of February."

No, Greece isn’t the most unhelpful country ever, IMF says - Market Watch

"The International Monetary Fund on Thursday denied a report that officials view Greece as the most unhelpful country the organization had ever dealt with in its 70-year history.

“There is no basis in fact for that contention. No such remark was made,” said IMF spokesman William Murray at a news conference.

Bloomberg had reported on March 18 that IMF officials had told their euro-area colleagues that Greece stands out as its worst client ever.

...Greece is locked in talks with the IMF and European creditors on a deal on economic reforms that would unlock 7.2 billion euros in aid. Greece needs the funding as it faces several major debt repayments in early April."

In Greece Governments Change, But Impunity Remains - Greek Reporter

"Tuesday’s decision to essentially set free former finance minister Giorgos Papakonstinou for tampering with the infamous Lagarde list created an outrage among the crisis-stricken public that wanted, at last, to see justice done.

Papakonstantinou served in the George Papandreou PASOK administration between October 2009 and June 2011. In 2010, Christine Lagarde, now chief of the International Monetary Fund, gave the Greek government a list of over 2,000 alleged tax evaders with big accounts in Swiss bank HSBC. Papakonstantinou was accused of erasing the names of three relatives on the list.

...Papakonstantinou was facing 10 years in prison for felony. Yet, he was cleared of charges of causing damage to the state and was found guilty of a misdemeanor, namely for doctoring a document. He only got a one-year suspended jail sentence. A good slap on the wrist would probably hurt more.

March 25, 2015

European Central Bank to ban embattled Greek banks from holding government bonds - UK Telegraph

"The European Central Bank is set to tighten the noose on Greece a day after the president of the Bank denied the institution was “blackmailing” Athens into agreeing to bail-out conditions.

According to reports, the ECB will move to officially ban Greek banks from increasing their holdings of the country’s short-term sovereign debt, in a bid to break a potentially toxic link between lenders and the stricken sovereign.

The restriction will place a further squeeze on the cash-strapped Greek government, which could run out of money to pay wages and pensions by the end of next month.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Monday, Mario Draghi denied the ECB was acting unfairly towards the Leftist government: “We haven’t created any rule for Greece, rules were in place and they’ve been applied,” said Mr Draghi."

Greece wants 1.2-billion euros back from EU - Yahoo News

The title of this AFP story changed to "charm offensive" but the original title is in the web page address string.

" The leader of the eurozone's finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, also said technical talks on Athens' reforms were "flowing again" after an unimpressive start, while the European parliament chairman expressed hope for a deal by the end of the week.

"In my opinion, by the end of the week we will reach a new understanding," European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said in an interview in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

Greek government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Mega TV on Tuesday that Athens' detailed reform proposals would be delivered "by Monday at the latest."

Greece is facing a cash squeeze caused by the non-delivery of EU-IMF loans since the radical Syriza party came to power in January promising to roll back austerity reforms.

Greece's creditors have made it clear that no funds remaining in the 240-billion-euro ($260 billion) bailout will be disbursed until Athens presents a credible reform blueprint to replace unpopular austerity measures."

March 24, 2015

Greece promises list of reforms by Monday to unlock cash - Reuters

"Athens is rushing to get the list ready before state coffers run empty, which is expected to happen in a few weeks without more aid.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday but Sakellaridis said the two only discussed the outline of the reforms without going into depth.

"I believe points of convergence were found," he said. "

March 23, 2015

Tsipras, Merkel display goodwill, little sign of debt progress - Reuters

"Yet despite warm words on the new leftist premier's first official visit to Berlin, it was unclear if they had narrowed differences on economic reforms Greece must implement to win urgently needed fresh cash from its creditors. The two leaders were due to discuss the reforms in greater depth over dinner.

Tsipras insisted he was not in Germany to solve Greece's pressing liquidity problems but to find common ground to move forward in the euro zone.

....But outside the Chancellery in Berlin, where he and Merkel reviewed an honour guard, the Greek prime minister encountered a friendly crowd trying to put a positive face on bilateral ties. They waved banners with pink hearts proclaiming "Germany loves Greece" and vice-versa and a Greco-German couple kissed.

Merkel, accused in Greece of seeking to force more austerity on a devastated economy, was looking for concrete ideas from the leftist premier on how to resolve the standoff over concluding a bailout programme worth 240 billion euros (175 billion pounds)."

Greece the only villain in euro crisis? Don't believe it! - CNN

"Spain's unemployment rate is 23.7%, down from a high of almost 27% in 2013. More than a fifth of its workers have been jobless for the last four years. More than half of its young people are out of work and have been for years. There is regularly talk of a lost generation in Spain and Greece. Like Greece, Spain's investment bubble burst when the financial crisis hit and it had to seek a bailout (although a much smaller one) to prevent its domestic banks from collapsing. Spain's economy also shrank during the crisis and its debt to GDP ratio has shot up dramatically.

If Greece and Spain have such wildly different approaches to fiscal prudence, what can explain the crisis they both find themselves in?

The answer is not fiscal virtue. Something else is going on. That something else, in large part, is the euro.

...The inability to set interest rates in line with the economic conditions meant that in the early 2000s, Spain and Greece couldn't raise interest rates to cool their over-heating economies. The over-heating was largely caused, by the way, by the frenzied (and ultimately reckless) lending in both countries by German and other core European banks."

Sclavounis resigns - WSJ

"Greece’s bank-rescue fund Chairman Christos Sclavounis resigned, two senior government officials said Monday.

“The Greek government accepted his resignation and the Finance Ministry is expected to announce his replacement in the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund”, said a senior government official.

The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund is Greece’s bank-bailout fund. The rescue vehicle was set up in 2010 mainly to recapitalize Greek lenders."

Only two weeks until the money runs out: - Financial Post

"The Greek government has just over two weeks, until April 8, before it enters a “critical” situation and cash runs dry in Athens.

That’s according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the Sunday edition of the respected German newspaper."

March 22, 2015

For the sake of Greece Tsipras has to admit failure - Cyprus Mail

"How could Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Varoufakis expect to be taken seriously by lenders and win their confidence, when they showed more concern about wording and packaging than putting together concrete reform proposals? They both made a big issue out of inconsequential achievements such as the fact that they would not be dealing with the troika but with the ‘institutions’ and that they had replaced the memorandum with a ‘loan agreement’. They also barred the representatives of ‘institutions’ from visiting ministries, Greek technocrats meeting them at neutral venues instead.

This showed an astonishing lack of awareness of the precarious situation Greece is in. The country will have no money to meet its financial obligations within a few weeks and its government is taking stands over trivialities and playing silly games with the ‘institutions’ that would help its economy avoid entering a nuclear winter. There were also the daily onslaughts on Germany and its finance minister, which may have gone down well with the Greek public, but was not the smartest way to secure Berlin’s help or support. Yet tomorrow Tsipras will be visiting Berlin for talks with Chancellor Merkel."

Will debt negotiations force Greece into Russia's orbit? - Fortune

"Former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard argues that European finance ministers are missing the forest for the trees when it comes to the Greek debt crisis.

...Speckhard points to the fact that Greece’s current left-wing ruling party, Syrzia, already has a close relationship with Russia. A day after he was elected to the post, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras objected to any further sanctions against Russia surrounding its support of separatists in Ukraine. And in May, Tsipras traveled to Russia, where he criticized the pro-European government which took power in Ukraine last year.

Speckhard argues that Europe could, for far less money, loosen some of the terms of Greece’s bailout and give the Greek people time to realize that Syrzia can’t deliver on its populist promises and remain a member of the Euro currency."

Greece Continues That Slide Towards Grexident - Forbes

"We’ve the usual German insistence that whatever the deal is it must accord with everything that has been agreed so far:

"Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pledged to submit a reform list within days to unlock further financial aid from the Eurogroup. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Athens will only receive fresh funds if it respects “every paragraph” of its bailout deal."

But the point is that from the Greek side that’s just not how they are acting:

"If there is one thing all sides in the Greek crisis publicly agree on, it is that Greece should stay in the eurozone. Yet with every day that passes without the Greek authorities and their creditors even finding a common basis for discussion, that exit creeps ever nearer."

Debts of history: Greece counters German bailout demands with calls for Nazi-era reparations - Fox

"It was 1943 and the Nazis were deporting Greece's Jews to death camps in Poland. Hitler's genocidal accountants reserved a chilling twist: The Jews had to pay their train fare.

The bill for 58,585 Jews sent to Auschwitz and other camps exceeded 2 million Reichsmark — more than 25 million euros ($27 million) in today's money.

For decades, this was a forgotten footnote among all of the greater horrors of the Holocaust. Today it is returning to the fore amid the increasingly bitter row between Athens and Berlin over the Greek financial bailout.

Jewish leaders in Thessaloniki, home to Greece's largest Jewish community, say they are considering how to reclaim the rail fares from Germany — with seven decades of interest.

...Such a move would suit the new government in Athens, which is trying to shift the public focus from Greece's current debt crisis to Germany's World War II debts ahead of Monday's first visit to Berlin by Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

While war reparations have been a staple demand of previous Greek governments, Tsipras' radical left government has made the issue a central part of the bailout negotiations with Germany. The Germans have dismissed such demands, saying compensation issues were settled decades ago in post-war accords."

Only Technocrats Can Save Greece Now - WSJ

"Mr. Tsipras needs to explain very specifically why he believes Greek growth will be at 1.5% or higher this year, and how he arrived at an estimate for this year’s primary fiscal surplus of 1% to 1.5% of gross domestic product, both numbers he mentioned in his Friday press conference in Brussels. Greece’s creditors will be particularly keen to find out how that primary surplus level can be achieved “without recessionary measures” (again, Mr. Tsipras’s formulation), given that it came in below target last year at 0.3% of GDP.

In a speech to Parliament last week, the prime minister proudly announced that his government was putting an end to the practice of having technocrats write legislative bills. He should reconsider. Politics has taken him as far as it can. To move forward, and keep at bay a catastrophe of historic proportions for Greece, it is the technocrats’ skills that he now needs. "

March 21, 2015

How Greece Became A Basket Case - Daily Beast

"...Byron’s monument, cast in thick stone, stands (literally) for the debt of gratitude Greece still feels towards him, but it also stands for something more amorphous, and more instructive. Stathis Kalyvas, professor of political science at Yale, has identified a recurrent pattern in modern Greek history: namely, the country’s ability to engage in vastly ambitious projects that are beyond its capacity, that receive international attention out of proportion to its actual size, and that invariably fail.

The War of Independence was not well-organized and by 1825 it was effectively finished. But support emerged amongst the three major powers of the time—France, Russia and Britain—for the Greek cause, and their forces destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Navarino in 1827. The Greeks were subsequently able to expel the Turks from the Peloponnese and eventually central Greece; true independence came a few years later. Despite its own shortcomings, Greece had been bailed out.

Greece’s founding story, Kalyvas argues, is the key to understanding its current crisis: “[What you have is] a very ambitious project,” he says. “It does fail, but Greece gets bailed out and the actual outcome is good.” But, he continues “you have the Moral Hazard problem: that precisely because you got these positive results through somebody else’s intervention, you don’t create the proper institutions—self-sustaining, accountable and that operate productively—necessary to govern effectively.”

This flaw is at the heart of the modern Greek state and at the heart of its financial crisis today. The former arguably began in 1974 when Greeks rose up to overthrow the governing military junta that had been in power since 1967. The transition to democracy was peaceful but the price was the establishment of a clientalist political model, specifically the establishment of a welfare state designed to compensate those on the left who had lost under the 1946-49 civil war between the Greek army and communist forces, and then suffered under the junta."

Greece Issue Breeds Brinkmanship in the Eurozone - NY Times

"...The reality is that Greece and the rest of Europe have to find a way to live together. The eurozone might be able to survive if Greece decides to go back to using its own currency, but such an outcome will cast a pall over the entire European experiment by raising the possibility that other countries, like Portugal, Spain and Italy, might someday also decide to leave. And for Greece, leaving the euro would mean the government would have to default on its debts and would be unable to borrow money on the global market. The savings of its people would become much less valuable, and some large companies would feel compelled to move out of the country."

Bailout Package: EU offers Greece funds worth €2b - Daily Express

"The European Union (EU) offered Greece funds worth €2 billion ($2.16 billion) to deal with what it called a ‘humanitarian crisis’ after the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to clarify reform pledges demanded by the country’s creditors. Tension mounted between Athens and Brussels since radical leftist Tsipras was elected in January promising to cut back on five years of austerity and renegotiate Greece’s debt arrangements. Greece has been lobbying for Brussels to release the last tranche of its EU-IMF bailout to help it make payments to creditors and avoid bankruptcy."

March 20, 2015

New reform pledge to Europe - Times India

"Greece agreed on Friday to give creditors a new list of reforms to get its bailout back on track after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held crunch talks with European leaders.

Time was running out for Athens as Friday brings a key debt deadline when Greece must pay 300 million euros to the IMF and redeem 1.6 billion euros in treasury bills.

"Greek authorities will have the ownership of the reforms and will present a full list of specific reforms in the next days," said the statement issued after the talks.

Hollande urged Greece "to be more precise in its reform proposals and introduce them faster than planned."

'Greece is in a corner' and the government is running out of cash - SF Gate

"Though Athens negotiated an extension to its bailout, it doesn't actually get any of that money until there's more concrete detail and clear implementation of economic reforms.

It's hard to say how long the Greek government can maintain the status quo: It can run through its existing surplus cash and tap those state deposits, and though Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has promised not to delay paying public-sector wages, that is another option in an extreme situation.

The situation is not much better in the private sector — the Financial Times reported that Greek bank outflows ran to €300 million ($320 million) on Wednesday alone after Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem suggested capital controls were a possibility. "

March 19, 2015

EU tells Greece time, patience running out - Reuters

Euro zone leaders told Greece on Thursday its leftist-led government must implement agreed reforms to avert a looming cash crunch that could force it out of the single currency.

Greece has been kept from bankruptcy by two international bailouts but now risks running out of money within weeks if it does not receive more funds.

....EU sources said Greece had refused to provide any update on public finances or reform plans in a conference call of senior euro zone officials on Tuesday and had denied EU, IMF and European Central Bank experts access to government buildings in Athens, insisting all meetings take place in a hotel.

The discussions had not gone beyond procedural issues of who would be allowed to talk to whom, the sources said.

Asked whether the experts had been kicked out, an EU official said: "The talks in Athens were paused yesterday. This is normal procedure and can be helpful to take stock. There is willingness to talk but the Greeks must deliver."

March 18, 2015

It appears the financial press is getting all lined up with a single message, and it's all bad.
Tsipras Strikes Defiant Tone With Greek Wall of Dignity - Bloomberg

“People have asked us to put an end to austerity and bailout agreements, to begin the process of reclaiming the dignity of the nation,” Tsipras said in a speech Wednesday in Athens. “We respond today, tomorrow and on Friday in parliament by building a wall of sovereignty and dignity.”

Nearly 80 percent of Greeks support Tsipras, according to a Public Issue poll published this week in pro-government newspaper Avgi. His handling of talks with creditors is viewed positively by 60 percent of citizens, according to the poll."

Technical Talks on Greece’s Bailout Not Going Well, Officials Say - WSJ

"Technical talks between Greece and its creditors aren't going well, officials said Wednesday, with each blaming the other for the snags in crucial negotiations.

Teams from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are getting very little information on the government’s finances and other key topics in Athens, two European officials said.

“The line was that the Greeks aren't cooperating,” said one of the officials, summarizing the institutions’ account during a teleconference among senior eurozone finance ministry officials on Tuesday.

A Greek official said the technical teams had gone beyond their role as fact-finders and had sought to intervene in politics, continuing a frequent line of complaint from Athens about the so-called troika of inspectors."

Time is running out for Greece: Shauble - WSJ

"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Wednesday that Greece has a chance to strike an accord with the institutions monitoring the international bailout, but warned that time is running out for the cash-strapped country.

“When you look at the tragedy of the three institutions’ [visit] in Athens and what has happened, it is getting more difficult to achieve a solution, that is the concern,” Schäuble said at a news conference."

IMF Considers Greece Its Most Unhelpful Client Ever - Bloomberg

"In a short and bad-tempered conference call on Tuesday, officials from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission complained that Greek officials aren’t adhering to a bailout extension deal reached in February or cooperating with creditors, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the call was private.

German finance officials said trying to persuade the Greek government to draw up a rigorous economic policy program is like riding a dead horse, the people said, while the IMF team said Greece’s attitude to its official creditors was unacceptable. The German Finance Ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests seeking comment.

Concern is growing among officials that the recalcitrance of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government may end up forcing Greece out of the euro, as the cash-strapped country refuses to take the action needed to trigger more financial support."

Greece vs. Germany: It's getting really ugly - CNN Money

"Did the Greek finance minister really show Germany the finger? The Germans think so, and they are fuming.

Germany's best selling newspaper Bild published a picture of Yanis Varoufakis' raised middle finger, taken from a YouTube video, on its front page Tuesday.

...Germans are fast running out of patience with Greece, just as Greece fast runs out of money. It needs Berlin's support if it is to remain in the euro.

A recent opinion poll by German television showed 52% of Germans would like to see Greece out of the euro, up from just 41% last month.

The relationship between Athens and Berlin has been deteriorating rapidly since the new Greek government started accusing Germany and its other creditors of bullying over its 240 billion euros bailout, and demanding a renegotiation of terms or even another debt haircut. "

Moscovici: Greece Won’t Stay in the Eurozone at Any Cost - Greek Reporter

"Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, spoke about the situation between Greece and the Eurozone in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt. Greece will not remain in the Eurozone at any cost, he said, even though a Greek exit would inflict great damage on the currency union.

...Furthermore, he added that the “Eurogroup has an overwhelming will to keep Greece in the eurozone. Financial accidents can happen. Our task, however, is not to organize this but to prevent it.”

March 17, 2015

A parallel currency is not the answer to Greece's problems - Business Insider

"There is a theory running through financial circles that claims to offer Greece a get-out-of-jail-free card to its current problems and avoid the country being forced out of the single currency. The idea is fairly simple: Greece needs to launch a parallel currency alongside the euro so that it has the money to get its unemployed citizens back to work.

Financial markets, wary of the country defaulting on its euro-denominated debts in the event, would start pulling out as many euros as they could and external creditors would likely refuse to roll over their loans on fear that they would not be able to be paid back. For a country that is still heavily reliant on outside financing to stay afloat such a scenario would necessary inflict a huge amount of pain on an already beleaguered populace who can ill-afford yet more setbacks.

As such, launching a new currency can be an option only if the Greek authorities are set on a euro exit. "

March 16, 2015

Greece’s Next Move - New Yorker

"Syriza came to power vowing to win a reduction in Greece’s enormous debt burden, to reject the budget commitments that the previous Greek government had made, and to liberate Greece from supervision by the so-called Troika—the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission—that has been vetting all the country’s fiscal decisions in recent years. Yet the new agreement makes no provision for debt reduction. It says that the extension will take place only within “the framework of the existing arrangement.” And Greece’s plans will still be evaluated by the same three institutions. From that angle, the Greeks went 0 for 3.

If you look a little harder, though, you can see that Greece won important breathing room."

Greece Pays Third Part of IMF Loan for March - Wall Street Journal

"Greece has met the deadline for paying the third part of its loan to the International Monetary Fund for March, a senior finance ministry official said Monday, as the country’s cash reserves continue to dry up.

...The government has to make another repayment of about €350 million to the IMF and refinance some €1.6 billion of short-term notes on Friday."

Tsipras: Austerity policy failed in whole of Europe, not just Greece - RT.COM

"The key for an honorable compromise (with the EU/IMF creditors) is to recognize that the previous policy of extreme austerity has failed, not only in Greece, but in the whole of Europe," Tsipras said in an interview to daily Ethnos, Reuters reports.

The prime minister is convinced he’ll reach an agreement with international creditors to keep the country’s finances afloat.

The standoff between Greece and the eurozone is ongoing. Last week, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said he was losing patience with Greece and warned of a ‘Grexident’ or a possible accidental exit of Greece from the eurozone."

German public, tired of Athens’ demands, want Greece to leave eurozone - FInancial Post

"The hardening of German opinion is significant because the country is the biggest contributor to Greece’s 240 billion-euro (US$253 billion) twin bailouts and the chief proponent of budget cuts and reforms in return for aid. Tensions have been escalating between the two governments since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office in January, promising to end an austerity drive that he blames on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The shift in sentiment comes as Greece, at risk of running out of cash this month, battles with European officials over the release of more bailout funds."

March 14, 2015

Why Should We Care about Greece? - American Thinker

"Greece is routinely painted in the Western MSM as the feckless child, and over the decades there's truth in this. The Greeks are the author of their current situation. But that history of economic fantasy changed in the last Greek election, with the empowerment of a reality-based coalition.

The new government wants to recognize the obvious. They want to declare Greece bankrupt and default on 50% of their massive sovereign debt... which is rational given that the country is not only bankrupt but completely illiquid and totally insolvent. (Their debt should be 100% defaulted IMHO but whatever.)

The rest of the EU, led by Germany, wants to pretend all is well, have the Greeks borrow yet more money to pay interest on the mountain of existing debt thus adding to it...

Extend and pretend is the official policy of Europe, for fear that a dozen more countries of the EU are illiquid and insolvent as well, that they might be tempted to default if the Greeks do, and that the entire EU house of cards would collapse if anyone dares say out loud and act upon what everyone already knows is true..."

It’s Time for the E.U. to Stop Bullying Greece - New Yorker

"Far from enjoying some fiscal space, the Greek government has spent much of the past few weeks watching its money run out and struggling to make payments on loans that have come due. Despite the Brussels agreement, Greece hasn’t received any disbursements from the E.U., and it won’t receive any until Syriza can persuade the European Commission, the European Central Bank (E.C.B.), and the International Monetary Fund—the “troika” of financial institutions that has long overseen the Greek bailout—that its economic-reform program meets their specifications. In the meantime, Athens is dependent on the E.C.B alone for financing, and the bank is doling out credit very stringently—in the words of Varoufakis, it is “asphyxiating” the Greek government.

This isn’t happening by accident.

The February agreement was not designed to give the Greek government financial breathing room but to pressure it into acceding to the wishes of its creditors...

...The E.U. claims that it is merely sticking by its rule book for negotiating (or renegotiating) bailouts. But, as the Greek economic commentator Nick Malkoutzis pointed out earlier this week, it almost seems as though some prominent E.U. leaders are determined to exact retribution for uppity behavior by Tsipras and, especially, Varoufakis. “The solution here does not lie just in the Greek side getting a crash course in European diplomacy and being more circumspect in what it says,” Malkoutzis wrote. “It also requires true Europeans on the other side to quash any feelings of punishment or prejudice that are stirring within the corridors of power in Brussels and other European capitals.”

Greece’s Next Move - New Yorker

"...In recent weeks, money had been pouring out of the country, leaving the banking system on the verge of collapse. And Syriza officials inherited an administrative state that was barely functioning. As Galbraith said, “When they went to the Ministry of Finance for the first time, there was not a document, not a computer. The Wi-Fi was not turned on.” Now Syriza has a little time to deliver on the promises it’s made, both to voters and to Europe.

The real challenge is satisfying those two constituencies, which want very different things. And though there’s space for negotiations, Greece is still in thrall to European institutions: both the E.C.B. and the I.M.F. have already voiced concerns about the reform plans that Greece submitted last Monday. If you owe three hundred billion euros and need Europe to save your banking system, you’re bound to be supervised, but Greece has so far negotiated without its most powerful weapon—the threat of leaving the euro and defaulting on its debts. Such a move, known as the Grexit, was off the table, because Syriza had campaigned on staying in the eurozone, and polls show that this is what most Greeks want. But they may soon need to reconsider.

The conventional wisdom is that returning to the drachma would be a catastrophe for Greece. Certainly, it would be traumatic: there would be an immediate devaluation; the value of savings would tumble; the price of imported goods would soar. But Greek exports would become cheaper and labor costs even more competitive. Tourism would likely boom. And regaining control of its monetary and fiscal policy for the first time since 2001 would give Greece the chance to deal with its economic woes."

Greek defence minister - If Greece leaves euro zone, Spain and Italy would be next: Bild intv - Reuters

"If Greece were to leave the euro zone, Spain and Italy would also end up quitting the common currency bloc, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos told German newspaper Bild in an interview to be published on Saturday.

“If Greece explodes, Spain and Italy will be next and then at some point, Germany. We therefore need to find a way within the euro zone, but this way cannot be that the Greeks keep on having to pay,” he said, according to an advance extract of the broad-ranging interview.

He also said Greece did not need a third bailout but rather “a haircut like the one Germany also got in 1953 at the London debt conference.”

March 13, 2015

Greece’s Alexis Tsipras Receives Cool Welcome at European Commission - WSJ

"Mr. Tsipras and other members of his government haven’t dialed back their antiausterity rhetoric and continue to ask for reparations from Germany for its actions in World War II. The demand has alienated politicians in Germany and other eurozone countries.

Mr. Tsipras had requested a meeting with Mr. Juncker just as technical talks between Greece and the three institutions that have been overseeing its bailout—the commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—started in Brussels and Athens this week.

Greece’s left-wing government has been hoping that the commission, the EU’s executive, would help it argue for more leeway on implementing economic overhauls and thus get its hands on a much-needed slice of rescue money."

Majority of Germans Want Greece Out of Eurozone - Newsweek

"The mood has continued to sour between the two nations over the last week with the Greek justice minister, Nikos Paraskevopoulos, threatening to confiscate German assets in compensation for Nazi war crimes during the second world war. The German tabloid newspaper Bild has run a campaign against further financial aid to Greece since February and opposed the four month extension to Greece’s bailout programme, running a front page reading “Nein”."

As Greece teeters on a European exit, politics trumps economics - Globe and Mail UK

"Ask any North American if Greece should be tossed out of the euro zone and invariably he or she will say Yes. Greece cannot pay its bills, refuses to reform its economy to make itself competitive, has turned tax evasion into a national sport and suffers from endemic corruption. So excise the cancer; the rest of the euro zone would be better off if Greece were to go.

Greece is circling the financial drain yet again. It is so desperate for money as debt repayment deadlines approach that it has raided the bank deposits of pensions and public-sector salaries and approached the Greek subsidiaries of multinational companies for loans. Unemployment is ticking up again and tax revenue is falling away.

The new radical left Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is in an apparent war with the country’s bailout masters – the EU, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund. The trio want Greece to stick with its debt repayment and austerity program. Mr. Tsipras and his Syriza government insist austerity is killing the economy."

The German government is discussing whether Greece should be cut from Europe like an 'amputated leg' - Reuters

"Even without the heat of official negotiations, relations between Athens and Berlin are getting more and more sour by the day. The latest example comes from Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister.

When pressed by Austrian reporters on whether he there could be a "Grexident"— an accidental series of events which could lead to Greece leaving the euro — Schaeuble said that Greece's future was down to the Greek authorities "and since we do not know exactly what the authorities in Greece will do, we can not rule it out."

The Greek government is taking an increasingly populist line against Germany. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivered a speech on Tuesday, demanding WWII-era reparations from Germany, and the country's justice minister has threatened to sign a law which would allow Greek complainants to seize German assets as compensation."

Tsipras says Greece doing its part in euro zone deal - Reuters

"Greece's problems are euro zone's problems and the single currency area should send Greece a message of solidarity as Athens stands ready to deliver on promises to reform in exchange for more loans, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

"Greece has already started fulfilling its commitments mentioned in the Eurogroup decision of 20 Feb so we are doing our part and we expect our partners to do their own," Tsipras told reporters after meeting the speaker of the European Parliament Martin Schulz."

March 12, 2015

'We Don't Want to Go on Borrowing Forever' - Tsipras at Der Spiegel

"The prime minister has given us an hour for the interview. He speaks Greek as he explains his plans in a deep, yet quiet voice, even laughing occasionally while leaning back comfortably. His self-confidence does not come across as arrogant, seeming instead to be rooted in his firm conviction that his position is the right one. He knows, he says, that life is full of compromises and that compromises are also vital for his country's cooperation with the European Union. "We must leave disaster of all kinds behind us," Tsipras says. "That, too, is why I wanted to speak with you."

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, most of your European partners are indignant. They accuse you of saying one thing in Brussels and then saying something completely different back home in Athens. Do you understand where such accusations come from?

Tsipras: We say the same things in Germany as we do in Greece. But sometimes, problems can be viewed differently, depending on the perspective. (He points to his water glass.) This glass here can be described as being half full or half empty. The reality is that it is a glass filled half-way with water.

...SPIEGEL: Why do you think you will be successful in doing what your predecessors promised to do, but failed?

Tsipras: Because we are not part of the old system, as our predecessors were. In particular, we will restrict the unrestrained activities of the oligarchs. They control the media and still receive huge loans from the banks, in contrast to normal companies. We would also like to monitor the work of state suppliers, which have established vast cartels. No reasonable person can be opposed to such a plan, and we are determined to tackle it. "

Greece, creditors to kick off fiscal talks in Athens - EU Business

"The new government's aggressive stance quickly alienated Greece's creditors, who want the new government to respect the terms of the 240-billion-euro ($255-billion) bailout signed by its predecessors.

With many promised reforms still incomplete, Athens has received no money from the remaining bailout funds, and the state is now desperate for cash.

This month alone, Greece must find some 6.0 billion euros to meet its debts -- including 1.5 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund.

Varoufakis insisted that Greece would be able to pay.

He said the creditors and Greece "have taken measures" and would come to an agreement to address what he called "a relatively small cashflow problem."

On Wednesday, Athens snapped up 1.3 billion euros offered by creditors in a new issue of three-month treasury bills, but at a higher interest rate of 2.7 percent."

Varoufakis: ECB policy on Greece 'asphyxiating' - Reuters

"The ECB has refused to give Athens any leeway to issue short-term debt to meet its funding needs amid a cash crunch as leftover bailout funds remain on hold.

Varoufakis said the ECB's stance is also aimed at Greece's euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund funding its bailout, as a way to also force them to find a solution with Athens.

Asked about his relationship with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, the minister said: "Mr. Schaeuble has told me I have lost the trust of the German government. I have told him that I never had it. I have the trust of the Greek people."

Schaeuble has said that no aid would be handed to Greece until international lenders had agreed that it had delivered on its reform commitments."

The Inevitable Next Step for Greece - Barrons

"What the euro-zone governments cannot seem to accept is that Greece does not need permission to default on its bonds and force a restructure: It can do that on its own, without a new “program” from its creditors and without accepting any terms or conditions.

Finance Minister Varoufakis has admitted Athens’ debt is unserviceable in its current form. In the very earliest days of this government, he identified the error in past approaches to Greece’s persistent cash flow problems: resolving liquidity gaps at any cost when solvency was the real issue. Over the past five years, Greece has received €145 billion in new loans from EFSF, €100 billion of credit from ECB and more cash from the IMF. Greece has been “fixed” by increasing its debt burden as a share of its income by half. It is obvious that what has been done has not worked.

Greece’s economy has not been repaired—it has been slaughtered.

Greece’s position in its conversations with its creditors is quite strong. It is now running a primary fiscal surplus equal to 3-1/2% of GDP. If debt service costs were eliminated from the public finances—as they would be in a true default—a cash surplus would accrue. So if Greece’s government defaults on its debt service obligations, it can cover its own domestic operating expenses without any cash inflows beyond tax revenues—creditors can go fish.... "

March 11, 2015

Greece demands Nazi war reparations and German assets seizures as creditor squeeze continues - UK Telegraph

"Greece's prime minister has demanded Germany pay back more than €160bn (£112bn) in Second World War reparations as his country is squeezed by creditors to overhaul its economy in return for vital bail-out funds.

In an emotive address to his parliament, Alexis Tsipras said his government had a "duty to history, to the people who fought and to the victims who gave their lives to defeat Nazism."

...Germany's vice-chancellor dismissed the prospect of repayment last month. “The likelihood is zero,” said Sigmar Gabriel.

The Third Reich famously subdued Greek resistance in a matter of weeks in 1941, after the country had held out for months against Mussolini’s Italian army. The Nazi occupation that followed saw more than 40,000 civilians starved to death in Athens alone.

Germany has claimed it has already covered its obligations in the post-war reparations it has since paid to Greece."

Germany's Merkel narrowly avoided bigger revolt on Greece - sources - Reuters

"One senior conservative told Reuters that Merkel's Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), "would have unanimously voted 'No'" had Wolfgang Schaeuble not solicited support during a personal appearance two days before the vote.

Another leading conservative said Schaeuble's meeting with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) was equally important in securing their support at a time when confidence in the Greek government was "kaputt" in the lower house of parliament.

"The vote was hanging by a thread," the lawmaker said, on condition of anonymity.

Schaeuble is a leading advocate of the austerity measures that Greece's new left-wing government wants to scrap."

Lafazanis: New gov't 'radically opposed' to some privatizations- Ledger Enquirer

"...We are radically opposed to the privatization, particularly of the strategic sectors and businesses of our economy, and primarily in the sector of infrastructure and energy," said Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy and environment minister and a government hardliner, at a conference in Athens.

Lafazanis added that "honestly, I haven't understood why for some schools of thought, privatizations have become synonymous with reforms."

He argued that what he called the "neoliberal deregulation in the energy market, which occurred particularly during the recent (bailout) years with the insistence of the (European) Commission and the troika" had prolonged and exacerbated Greece's financial crisis and energy poverty in the country.

...Greece's new radical left government, voted in on Jan. 25 on promises to abolish budget austerity measures, has pledged not to take any unilateral action without consulting its European creditors and those overseeing the country's bailout, and to adhere to a series of policy reforms.

It made the pledges in February in return for a four-month extension to the European part of its bailout, which was to have expired at the end of February.

But some ministers and party members have insisted the governing Syriza party's pre-election promises must be adhered to."

March 10, 2015

Eurozone Calls for Faster Action From Greece - WSJ

"The technical talks between Greece and the institutions—the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, collectively known as the troika—are necessary to agree on the measures Greece has to implement to get more funding. But it hadn’t previously been clear where the experts would meet to do their assessment.

Since Greece’s €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout program was extended by four months in late February, there has been little progress on policy measures Athens must implement to unlock its next aid slice. Without the money and with tax receipts plunging, the Greek government risks running out of money in a matter of weeks, eurozone officials have said.

...In recent days Greece’s government has been dialing up its rhetoric, with Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis warning that Greece could hold a referendum should the government and the rest of the eurozone fail to reach an agreement on new measures.

The reaction among creditors hasn’t been positive. “We should act more and talk less,” said Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna."

Varoufakis unsettles Germans: Greece is "most bankrupt in the world and said European leaders knew all along that Athens would never repay its debt"- Reuters

"Although strident criticism of the way Greece has been treated is typical for Varoufakis, a Marxist economist, the remarks caused a stir in Germany where voters and politicians are increasingly reluctant to lend Greece money.

Bild daily splashed the comments on the front page and ran an editorial comment urging European leaders to stop providing Greece with ever more financial support.

"The Greek government is behaving as if everyone must dance to its tune. But there must be an end to this madness. Europe must not be made to look stupid," wrote a commentator."

Loan Talks with EU on Wednesday - Novinite

"Officials from Greece are due to hold technical talks with international lenders on Wednesday as Athens is seeking to secure more funding.

Negotiations will be carried out in Brussels, and not in Athens, to avoid drawing comparisons with the so-called "Troika" of institutions whose inspectors engaged in occasional visit to the Greek capital, angering those who believe the country's sovereignty has been put into question."

Greece 'wasting time' in EU bailout talks - Sky News

"European finance ministers have urged Greece to stop wasting time in talks on its crucial bailout as debt-stricken Athens warned of a possible referendum if its reform plans are rejected.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup of ministers from the 19 countries that use the single currency, on Monday said Greece had to make concrete progress if it wants financial aid to be further extended through the summer.

...The euro dived to a new 11.5-year low against the dollar and Europe's main stock markets slumped as concerns about Greece outweighed the impact of the European Central Bank's launching on Monday its 1.1-trillion-euro ($A1.6 trillion) bond-buying program aimed at boosting the eurozone economy."

March 9, 2015

Greece's crisis to again top agenda of Eurogroup meeting - LAT

"Germany’s deputy finance minister slapped down any prospect of a new breakthrough, saying he “did not expect concrete decisions to be taken on Greece” because officials were still “waiting for more financial details” on the reform plan from Athens.

Monday’s meeting is the first since finance ministers of the 19 countries sharing the single European currency granted a four-month extension of a rescue package to Athens, provided it press ahead with rigorous reforms to jump-start its economy, which is stuck deep in the doldrums of a six-year recession.

...Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been working the phones, calling French President Francois Hollande, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to rally support for Athens' plan.

If an agreement on the reforms is not reached Monday and the deal cannot be rescued, the failure would deliver a blow that would sink Greece deeper into financial turmoil."

March 8, 2015

ECB won't agree to Greece issuing more short-term debt - Reuters

"The European Central Bank will not agree to Greece issuing more short-term debt because that would be tantamount to it illegally financing the Greek government, ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said in an German newspaper interview on Saturday.

Echoing comments from ECB President Mario Draghi, Coeure told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in comments to be published on Sunday the ECB would not allow Greece to raise a limit on issuance of short-term debt so that leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can avert a funding crunch."

Leaked letter in Greece earns government wide scorn - Yahoo News

"Of all seven reform proposals submitted by Greece to eurozone finance ministers, Reform No. 3 has been most talked about since it was leaked.

It calls for "non-professional inspectors," including "students, housekeepers and even tourists" to crack down on tax evasion.

"...If they expect to combat tax evasion this way, they are not only dangerous, since they do not grasp the legal ramifications of the measure, or its effectiveness, but are also ridiculous and expose the country to ridicule," New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis said.

The government hasn't confirmed the leaked contents of the letter, but didn't deny them either when replying to New Democracy.

"They who have repeatedly ridiculed the country to the world by serving all sorts of interests ... should better keep silent. They have already been disavowed by society. The government will do everything to eliminate tax-dodging opportunities opened by previous governments. The results will show who is ridiculous and who is not."

Greece will never quit euro zone says Juncker - Reuters

"Greece will never leave the euro zone as to do so would cause "irreparable damage" to the European Union, the head of the EU's executive Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said in a German newspaper interview to be published on Sunday.

...EU, German and French officials say privately that the 19-nation euro zone is better equipped to withstand a possible Greek departure than it was at the height of the currency bloc's sovereign debt crisis. But Juncker said this would not happen.

"It would cause irreparable damage around the world to the reputation of the entire European Union," the Commission president said of a Greek exit from the euro."

March 6, 2015

Greece to 'hire undercover army of tourist and student tax spies'- Yahoo

"The culture of tax avoidance runs deep within Greek society," the leak published by the Financial Times said.

"Tax authorities are not only understaffed but immersed in the logic of book-checking when the real problem lies off the books," it went on.

...The leak, a copy of a letter apparently sent by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said those "students, housekeepers even tourists" recruited would be given minimal training as their presence on the streets would be deterrent enough.

It also claimed that Varoufakis argued that this undercover army could go where traditional tax inspectors were unable to tread, making a "serious dent" in VAT fraud "that typifies nightclubs and medical services".

Greece vs. Germany: Two Competing National Narratives

"Germans see themselves as having built economic success from the ashes of World War II through self-sacrifice, personal reliance and hard work. When their economy started to underperform in the 1990s, they enacted a series of tough reforms more than a decade ago that laid the platform for economic strength today.

For many Germans, there’s an element of morality here. Their virtue has been rewarded, as it would be for others if they followed the same wise course. Germans’ view of Greece is informed by the popular view of themselves: Small wonder that a country that has chosen the opposite course of profligacy, debt dependence and irresponsibility finds itself suffering an economic disaster.

...On the other hand, Greeks have seen themselves as victims of foreign interference since the country was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Kevin Featherstone, professor of Greek studies at the London School of Economics, says there’s an “enduring history of a sense of victimhood” that has been in evidence from the origins of the modern Greek state to the present day.

The idea that Greece’s troubles are externally imposed allows many Greeks to depict themselves as blameless. The left-wing protest narrative, says Mr. Featherstone, depicts a corrupt political elite in collusion with a handful of oligarchs and superrich. When Greek and French banks needed repaying, it was ordinary people who suffered. The right-wing story is that the Greek elites have failed to stand up to foreign domination."

Tsipras requests to meet EC chief over cash shortage - PressTV

"The request comes a day after the European Central Bank (ECB) said it would consider giving more room on financing to Greece after Athens reached a debt deal with its eurozone partners last month.

The ECB recently cut off a major channel of financing for banks in Greece after saying it would no longer accept Greek sovereign bonds as collateral for loans."

Cash-strapped Greece repays first part of IMF loan due in March - Cyprus News

"Greece repaid the first 310 million euro instalment of a loan from the International Monetary Fund that falls due this month, as it scrambles to cover its funding needs, a government source said on Friday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ newly elected government must pay a total of 1.5 billion euros to the IMF this month over two weeks starting on Friday.

His government has said it will make the payments but there has been growing uncertainty over the country’s cash position as it faces a steep fall in tax revenues while aid from EU/IMF lenders remains on hold until Athens completes promised reforms.

...Athens has to pay three other instalments, on March 13, 16 and 20 as part of repayment due to the IMF this month.

...Shut out of debt markets and squeezed by a steep fall in tax revenues, Athens is running out of options to fund itself despite striking a deal with the euro zone in February to extend its EU/IMF bailout by four months."

March 5, 2015

Debt and deficit: Which one is the lesser of two evils for Greece? - Yahoo Finance

"Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 129.7% in 2010. The ratio surged to 174.9% by the end of 2014.

However, the bailout program requires Greece to reduce its debt below 110% of GDP by 2022. In effect, Greece would have to run a primary budget surplus over 4% for well over a decade. This is not an easy task for Greece.

Greece recently announced a primary budget surplus of 1.9 billion euros ($2.24 billion) for 2014. However, the primary surplus does not include the interest that this financially distressed nation is paying for its monstrous debt.

Greece’s overall government budget as a percentage of its GDP was -15.7% in 2010. After recovering to -8.6% of GDP for 2013, the ratio again dipped to -12.2% for 2014."

Greece shaky, new recession seen near - Arkansas Online

"Vassilis Korkidis, head of Greece's National Confederation of Commerce, said the recent deal with creditors gave Greece's economy a "last-minute kiss of life and avoided the so-called sudden death," but cautioned that any respite was "temporary."

Whatever growth Greece ekes out in 2015 is likely to be markedly lower than expected just a few weeks ago, a sign of the damage wrought by the bailout deliberations. As recently as early February, the European Union was predicting that Greece would be one of the fastest-growing eurozone economies in 2015, with growth of 2.5 percent.

Douglas Renwick, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, said the period of uncertainty has damaged investor, consumer, and depositor confidence and increased "the downside risks to growth and Greece's incipient economic recovery."

Repairing the damage done from the recent bout of brinkmanship "could take time," he said. Renwick said Fitch was likely to further reduce its 2015 growth forecast for Greece from the current 1.5 percent.

Even though recession looms, the scale of the retreat is nothing like what Greece experienced in the years after it got its first bailout in 2010."

We're about to find out more about the ECB's quantitative easing plan - Business Insider

"The European Central Bank, meeting in Cyprus on Thursday, is set to update its economic forecasts and reveal details of its new bond purchase programme, analysts said.

Greece will also be high on the agenda of the ECB's decision-making governing council, following the recent eurozone deal to extend aid to the debt-wracked country, the experts said.

The eurozone's central bank is holding its second monetary policy meeting of the year in Nicosia instead of its usual venue of Frankfurt.

After revealing its plans for quantitative easing (QE) in January, the ECB will focus on fleshing out the details of that programme rather than announcing any new measures, analysts said."

Greeks have paid Germany €360m in interest - The Local De

"Greece has been dependent on financial aid from its partners in the Eurozone since private investors lost confidence in the country.

Between 2009 and 2014 its debts grew from €301 billion to €318 billion. And massively weakened economic activity in Greece has led to a collapse in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to €187 billion in 2014 – a fall of 22 percent compared with 2009 – with its debts now standing at 176.3 percent of its income.

Greece's government is struggling to fill the holes in its finances, with privatisation of state properties bringing in just €1 billion rather than a hoped-for €20 billion."

March 3, 2015

Greece May Need Third Rescue - Bloomberg

"Greece could need a third bailout deal when its current program expires in June because markets may still not be prepared to lend to its government, even with a euro-area credit line, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected in January, said Friday his government won’t need another bailout. Greece has received pledges of 240 billion euros ($269 billion) in aid from its two rescue packages, and Tsipras’s government must meet creditor demands to tap remaining funds.

Speculation over whether Greece would need a third bailout has been swirling for a year or more -- German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in August 2013 that a new aid program would be needed to help Greece meet its debt obligations -- and estimates of the country’s needs have ranged from 12 billion to 50 billion euros."

Mixed messages on third Greek bailout talks - Reuters

"Speaking at an event in Pamplona, northern Spain, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said the new rescue plan would set more flexible conditions for Greece, which had no alternative other than European support.

But the spokeswoman for Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers' group, said there was no discussion of a third bailout and senior euro zone officials concurred.

"Euro zone finance ministers are not discussing a third bailout," spokeswoman Simone Boitelle said.

Greek leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used a televised address on Friday to deny his country would need another international programme."

March 2, 2015

Varoufakis: Greece Will Need New Debt Agreement - Greek Reporter

"In excerpts released on Sunday, Varoufakis is quoted as saying, “Just as we do not want to hear the word ‘troika’ anymore, our creditors do not want to hear the word ‘haircut,’ and I understand this.” He added that there are “smarter solutions” than a debt cancellation and gave swaps as an example, also proposing the issuance of treasury bills whose yield would be linked to GDP numbers. “Then it would be in our creditors’ interest as well to see our economy restart,” he noted.

Among other things he said that the fact that wages and prices are still dropping is a sign of a deep recession, while he said that the return to growth in the nominal GDP is the only way for Greece to start facing its mountain of debt, despite the low interest rates. “The way to reverse this is to have investments,” he clarified. Asked to comment on the government’s plans to fight tax evasion, he said “success is not guaranteed…"

Greece Not Such a Drag for Eurozone - WSJ

"Despite Greece’s problems, Eurozone recovery is strengthening

After weeks of brinkmanship between Greece and the eurozone, one might think the outlook for Europe was bleak. Since the election of a radical leftist-led government in Athens in January, a breakup of the supposedly irreversible single currency has looked more likely than ever. It took an 11th-hour deal finalized last week to avert imminent Greek bankruptcy—and already this fragile truce is under strain.

Eurozone policy makers claim that they only tolerated a degree of vagueness in a list of Greek reform commitments required as part of that deal to help Athens obscure the scale of its climb-down from its domestic audience. But Athens insists the lack of detail is evidence of “constructive ambiguity” that leaves the exact nature of what it has agreed open to continued negotiation. Thus the uncertainty over Greece’s fate is set to continue."

March 1, 2015

German parliament approves Greek bailout extension - MSN

"With 542 lawmakers voting in favor, including almost all of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition plus the opposition Greens, it was the biggest majority for any euro zone rescue package so far in the 631-seat chamber.

The Bundestag vote was the only major parliamentary hurdle for a four-month extension to the bailout program for the most heavily-indebted country in the single currency zone."


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