Publications on Greece
Strategic Analysis, September 2016 | October 2016
The Greek government has agreed to a new round of fiscal austerity measures consisting of a sharp increase in taxes on income and property and further reductions in pension and other welfare-related expenditures. Based on our model of the Greek economy, policies aimed at reducing the government deficit will cause a recession, unless other components of aggregate demand increase enough to more than offset the negative impact of fiscal austerity on output and employment.
In this report we argue that the troika strategy of increasing net exports to restart the economy has failed, partly because of the low impact of falling wages on prices, partly because of the low trade elasticities with respect to prices, and partly because of other events that caused a sharp reduction in transport services, which used to be Greece’s largest export sector.
A policy initiative to boost aggregate demand is urgently needed, now more than ever. We propose a fiscal policy alternative based on innovative financing mechanisms, which could trigger a boost in confidence that would encourage renewed private investment.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 867 | May 2016
This paper examines the issue of the Greek public debt from different perspectives. We provide a historical discussion of the accumulation of Greece’s public debt since the 1960s and the role of public debt in the recent crisis. We show that the austerity imposed since 2010 has been unsuccessful in stabilizing the debt while at the same time taking a heavy toll on the Greek economy and society. The experience of the last six years shows that the country’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and therefore a bold restructuring is needed. An insistence on the current policies is not justifiable either on pragmatic or on moral or any other grounds. The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful hints for the way forward. A solution to the Greek public debt problem is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the solution of the Greek and wider European crisis. A broader agenda that deals with the malaises of the Greek economy and the structural imbalances of the eurozone is of vital importance.Download:Associated Programs:The State of the US and World Economies Monetary Policy and Financial Structure Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyAuthor(s):
Policy Note 2016/1 | January 2016A complementary currency circulates within an economy alongside the primary currency without attempting to replace it. The Swiss WIR, implemented in 1934 as a response to the discouraging liquidity and growth prospects of the Great Depression, is the oldest and most significant complementary financial system now in circulation. The evidence provided by the long, successful operation of the WIR offers an opportunity to reconsider the creation of a similar system in Greece.
The complementary currency is a proven macroeconomic stabilizer—a spontaneous money creator with the capacity to sustain and increase an economy’s aggregate demand during downturns. A complementary financial system that supports regional development and employment-targeted programs would be a U-turn toward restoring people’s purchasing power and rebuilding Greece’s desperate economy.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 52 | January 2016
Even under optimistic assumptions, the policy status quo being enforced in Greece cannot be relied upon to help recover lost incomes and employment within any reasonable time frame. And while a widely discussed public investment program funded by European institutions would help, a more innovative, better-targeted solution is required to address Greece’s protracted unemployment crisis: an “employer of last resort” (ELR) plan offering paid work in public projects, financed by issuing a nonconvertible “fiscal currency”—the Geuro.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, January 2016 | January 2016The Greek economy has not succeeded in restoring growth, nor has it managed to restore a climate of reduced uncertainty, which is crucial for stabilizing the business climate and promoting investment. On the contrary, the new round of austerity measures that has been agreed upon implies another year of recession in 2016.
After reviewing some recent indicators for the Greek economy, we project the trajectory of key macroeconomic indicators over the next three years. Our model shows that a slow recovery can be expected beginning in 2017, at a pace that is well below what is needed to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment. We then analyze the impact of a public investment program financed by European institutions, of a size that is feasible given the current political and economic conditions, and find that, while such a plan would help stimulate the economy, it would not be sufficient to speed up the recovery. Finally, we revise our earlier proposal for a fiscal stimulus financed through the emission of a complementary currency targeted to job creation. Our model shows that such a plan, calibrated in a way that avoids inflationary pressures, would be more effective—without disrupting the targets the government has agreed upon in terms of its primary surplus, and without reversing the improvement in the current account.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/6 | October 2015
The recapitalization of Greek banks is perhaps the most critical problem for the Greek state today. Despite direct cash infusions to Greek banks that have so far exceeded €45 billion, with corresponding guarantees of around €130 billion, credit expansion has failed to pick up. There are two obvious reasons for this failure: first, the massive exodus of deposits since 2010; and second, the continuous recession—mainly the product of strongly deflationary policies dictated by international lenders.
Following the 2012–13 recapitalization, creditors allowed the old, now minority, shareholders and incumbent management (regardless of culpability) to retain effective control of the banks—a decision that did not conform to accepted international practices. Sitting on a ticking time bomb of nonperforming loans (NPLs), Greek banks, rather than adopting the measures necessary to restructure their portfolios, cut back sharply on lending, while the country’s economy continued to shrink.
The obvious way to rehabilitate Greek banking following the new round of recapitalization scheduled for later this year is the establishment of a “bad bank” that can assume responsibility for the NPL workouts, manage the loans, and in some cases hold them to maturity and turn them around. This would allow Greek banks to make new and carefully underwritten loans, resulting in a much-needed expansion of the credit supply. Sound bank recapitalization with concurrent avoidance of any creditor bail-in could help the Greek banking sector return to financial health—and would be an effective first step in returning the country to the path of growth.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/5 | August 2015
An Assessment in the Context of the IMF Rulings for Greece
Developing countries, led by China and other BRICS members (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa), have been successfully organizing alternative sources of credit flows, aiming for financial stability, growth, and development. With their goals of avoiding International Monetary Fund loan conditionality and the dominance of the US dollar in global finance, these new BRICS-led institutions represent a much-needed renovation of the global financial architecture. The nascent institutions will provide an alternative to the prevailing Bretton Woods institutions, loans from which are usually laden with prescriptions for austerity—with often disastrous consequences for output and employment. We refer here to the most recent example in Europe, with Greece currently facing the diktat of the troika to accept austerity as a precondition for further financial assistance.
It is rather disappointing that Western financial institutions and the EU are in no mood to provide Greece with any options short of complying with these disciplinary measures. Limitations, such as the above, in the prevailing global financial architecture bring to the fore the need for new institutions as alternative sources of funds. The launch of financial institutions by the BRICS—when combined with the BRICS clearing arrangement in local currencies proposed in this policy note—may chart a course for achieving an improved global financial order. Avoiding the use of the dollar as a currency to settle payments would help mitigate the impact of exchange rate fluctuations on transactions within the BRICS. Moreover, using the proposed clearing account arrangement to settle trade imbalances would help in generating additional demand within the BRICS, which would have an overall expansionary impact on the world economy as a whole.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, May 2015 | May 2015
The Greek economy has the potential to recover, and in this report we argue that access to alternative financing sources such as zero-coupon bonds (“Geuros”) and fiscal credit certificates could provide the impetus and liquidity needed to grow the economy and create jobs. But there are preconditions: the existing government debt must be rolled over and austerity policies put aside, restoring trust in the country’s economic future and setting the stage for sustainable income growth, which will eventually enable Greece to repay its debt.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Report, May 2015 | May 2015This addendum to our June 2014 report, “Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece,” updates labor market data through 2014Q3 and identifies emerging employment and unemployment trends. The overarching aim of the report, the outcome of a study undertaken in 2013 by the Levy Institute in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour, is to provide policymakers and the general public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale direct job creation program in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010 as a condition of the loans made to Greece by its eurozone partners.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/2 | February 2015
The Greek economic crisis started as a public debt crisis five years ago. However, despite austerity and a bold “haircut,” public debt is now around 175 percent of Greek GDP. In this policy note, we argue that Greece’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and that a significant restructuring of this debt is needed in order for the Greek economy to start growing again. Insistence on maintaining the current policy stance is not justifiable on either pragmatic or moral grounds.
The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful insights for the way forward. In the aftermath of the war, there was a sweeping cancellation of the country’s public and foreign debt, which was part of a wider plan for the economic and political reconstruction of Germany and Europe. Seven decades later, while a solution to the unsustainability of the Greek public debt is a necessary condition for resolving the Greek and European crisis, it is not, in itself, sufficient. As the postwar experience shows, a broader agenda that deals with both Greece’s domestic economic malaise and the structural imbalances in the eurozone is also of vital importance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/1 | February 2015
Financial Fragility and the Survival of the Single CurrencyGiven the continuing divergence between progress in the monetary field and political integration in the euro area, the German interest in imposing austerity may be seen as representing an attempt to achieve, de facto, accelerated progress toward political union; progress that has long been regarded by Germany as a precondition for the success of monetary unification in the form of the common currency. Yet no matter how necessary these austerity policies may appear in the context of the slow and incomplete political integration in Europe, they are ultimately unsustainable. In the absence of further progress in political unification, writes Senior Scholar Jan Kregel, the survival and stability of the euro paradoxically require either sustained economic stagnation or the maintenance of what Hyman Minsky would have recognized as a Ponzi scheme. Neither of these alternatives is economically or politically sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, December 2014 | December 2014With the anti-austerity Syriza party continuing to lead in polls ahead of Greece’s election on January 25, what is the outlook for restoring growth and increasing employment following six years of deep recession? Despite some timid signs of recovery, notably in the tourism sector, recent short-term indicators still show a decline for 2014. Our analysis shows that the speed of a market-driven recovery would be insufficient to address the urgent problems of poverty and unemployment. And the protracted austerity required to service Greece’s sovereign debt would merely ensure the continuation of a national crisis, with spillover effects to the rest of the eurozone—especially now, when the region is vulnerable to another recession and a prolonged period of Japanese-style price deflation. Using the Levy Institute’s macroeconometric model for Greece, we evaluate the impact of policy alternatives aimed at stimulating the country’s economy without endangering its current account, including capital transfers from the European Union, suspension of interest payments on public debt and use of these resources to boost demand and employment, and a New Deal plan using public funds to target investment in production growth and finance a direct job creation program.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 138, 2014 | October 2014To mobilize Greece’s severely underemployed labor potential and confront the social and economic dangers of persistent unemployment, we propose the immediate implementation of a direct public benefit job creation program—a Greek “New Deal.” The Job Guarantee (JG) program would offer the unemployed jobs, at a minimum wage, on work projects providing public goods and services. This policy would have substantial positive economic impacts in terms of output and employment, and when newly accrued tax revenue is taken into account, which substantially reduces the net cost of the program, it makes for a comparatively modest fiscal stimulus. At a net cost of roughly 1 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP (depending on the wage level offered), a midrange JG program featuring the direct creation of 300,000 jobs has the potential to reduce the unemployed population by a third or more, once indirect employment effects are taken into account. And our research indicates that the policy would do all this while reducing Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio—which leaves little room for excuses.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Strategic Analysis, August 2014 | August 2014What are the prospects for economic recovery if Greece continues to follow the troika strategy of fiscal austerity and internal devaluation, with the aim of increasing competitiveness and thus net exports? Our latest strategic analysis indicates that the unprecedented decline in real and nominal wages may take a long time to exert its effects on trade—if at all—while the impact of lower prices on tourism will not generate sufficient revenue from abroad to meet the targets for a surplus in the current account that outweighs fiscal austerity. The bottom line: a shift in the fiscal policy stance, toward lower taxation and job creation, is urgently needed.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Report, April 2014 | July 2014
A Proposal for Rural Reinvestment and Urban EntrepreneurshipThe crisis in Greece is persistent and ongoing. After six years of deepening recession, real GDP has shrunk by more than 25 percent, with total unemployment now standing at 27.2 percent. Clearly, reviving growth and creating jobs should be at the top of the policy agenda.
But banks remain undercapitalized, and lending has been restricted to only the most creditworthy businesses and households. Many start-ups and small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) have almost no access to development loans, and for those to whom credit can be extended, it is at disproportionally high interest rates.
The success of micro-lending institutions in developing nations (such as the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh) has highlighted the positive economic performance of community-based credit, and such lending models have proven to be an important poverty policy alternative in areas where transfer payments are limited. Community or co-operative financial institutions (CFIs) can fill the gap when existing institutions cannot adequately perform critical functions of the financial system for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and low-income residents seeking modest financing and other banking services.
We propose expanding the reach and services of CFIs within Greece, drawing upon lessons from the US experience of community development banking and various co-operative banking models in Europe. The primary goals of this nationwide system would be to make credit available, process payments, and offer savings opportunities to communities not well served by the major commercial Greek banks.
Our blueprint includes suggestions on the banks’ organization and a framework within which they would be chartered, regulated, and supervised by a newly created central co-operative bank. It also looks at the possible impact that such a network could have, especially in terms of start-ups, SMEs, and rural redevelopment (agrotourism)—all of which are critical to Greece’s exit from recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Report, April 2014 | June 2014
This report presents the findings from a study undertaken by the Levy Institute in 2013 in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour. It uses as background the 2011 Levy Institute study “Direct Job Creation for Turbulent Times in Greece,” which focused on the need for direct job creation to address rising unemployment. The focus in this report, however, is different. Here, the aim is to make available to policymakers and the broader public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale program of direct job creation program—a cost-effective and proven policy response. The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to draw urgently needed attention to the worsening levels of unemployment in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 133, 2014 | May 2014The “happy talk” emanating from eurozone officials regarding the economic crises in the periphery deserves some vigorous pushback. Focusing on the four bailed-out countries of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, Research Associate and Policy Fellow C. J. Polychroniou argues in this policy brief that, contrary to the burgeoning optimism in official communications, these countries’ economies are still not on track for vigorous, sustainable recoveries in growth and employment—and that there is nothing surprising in this result.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Strategic Analysis, February 2014 | February 2014In this report, we discuss alternative scenarios for restoring growth and increasing employment in the Greek economy, evaluating alternative policy options through our specially constructed macroeconometric model (LIMG). After reviewing recent events in 2013 that confirm our previous projections for an increase in the unemployment rate, we examine the likely impact of four policy options: (1) external help through Marshall Plan–type capital transfers to the government; (2) suspension of interest payments on public debt, instead using these resources for increasing demand and employment; (3) introduction of a parallel financial system that uses new government bonds; and (4) adoption of an employer-of-last-resort (ELR) program financed through the parallel financial system. We argue that the effectiveness of the different plans crucially depends on the price elasticity of the Greek trade sector. Since our analysis shows that such elasticity is low, our ELR policy option seems to provide the best strategy for a recovery, having immediate effects on the Greek population's standard of living while containing the effects on foreign debt.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):