Populaire berichten

dinsdag 4 augustus 2015

In Cash-Starved Greece, Plastic Casts Light Into Shadow Economy

- De zwarte economie en belastingontduiking is zo groot in Griekenland dat veel mensen niet eens een pinpas hebben. Alles gaat toch in cash !

Greece’s banking crisis is having at least one positive outcome, and it’s made of plastic.
In a country where cash is king and undeclared transactions still make up about a quarter of the economy, about 1 million debit cards have been issued by banks since the government closed lenders for three weeks and imposed controls on euro bills. Emergency measures that some officials warned might spur the black market are showing signs of doing the opposite.
Alpha Bank SA issued about 220,000 cards in July, more than all of last year, as mainly pensioners realized that they had to access their money at cash machines and elsewhere, said Leonidas Kasoumis, general manager for household lending. Supermarket and gasoline sales paid by debit cards doubled in the wake of controls; usage in the countryside tripled, he said.
“Capital controls were a big trigger,” Kasoumis said. “It’s good for merchants, because cash is limited; it’s good for banks because it reduces operational costs. But the best news is for the economy.”
The restrictions on cash were introduced in late June as banks hemorrhaged money and were kept alive by a drip-feed from the European Central Bank. Greeks can withdraw 420 euros ($460) a week, though there’s no limit on spending with debit cards provided the transaction is within the country.

Collecting Taxes

What’s occurred is a shift that’s unprecedented for a country with the smallest number of electronic payments per head in the European Union, according to ECB figures.
The cash culture contributed to the country’s poor record in curbing the shadow economy and collecting taxes, one of the reasons that led Greece to seek its first bailout from its euro area partners and the International Monetary Fund in 2010.
The increase in cards coming into circulation will help combat that, as more buying and selling of goods and services goes through the books, according to Theodore Kalantonis, deputy chief executive officer for retail banking at Eurobank Ergasias SA. Until now, payments on plastic accounted for 6 percent of the total, one of the lowest rates in Europe, he said.
Demand from businesses for card payment systems has surged, even from non-traditional customers such as dentists and doctors, according to Kalantonis.

Visa Cards

The largest bank, National Bank of Greece SA, issued more than 400,000 debit cards during the last four weeks.
The number of active Visa debit cards in Greece more than doubled in July from previous months, said Nikos Kabanopoulos, the country manager for Visa Europe.
The company, which processes almost 60 percent of Greek point-of-sale card payments, saw a 135 percent increase in card transactions in the two weeks immediately after the capital controls were imposed, Kabanopoulos said. In 2014, spending on Visa cards was 1 euro for every 37 euros compared to 1 euro for 6 euros in Europe as a whole, he said.
Until last month, the vast majority of Greek pensioners didn’t even have a cash card, which led to the scenes in July of elderly Greeks lining up in despair outside banks to get their pensions when the banks were shut down.
Now, the scenes are more likely to be that of family members helping the new cardholders.
More people have been asking to pay by card at the café where Alexandros Papadakis works at in central Athens since the controls were imposed. The establishment is looking into getting a system installed, the 31-year-old said.
“I hope it becomes a habit among all Greeks,” he said.

dinsdag 14 juli 2015

Greece pledges to get rid of tax evasion as a way of life

- Grieken betalen veel te weinig belasting, dus dan doe wij het maar voor ze. Waarom politici niet snappen dat Griekenland pas veranderd als ze het zelf moeten doen na een faillissement ipv het land gratis geld geven in ruil voor hervormingen die ze toch niet uitvoeren zoals ze nu doen is mij een groot raadsel.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Dimitris Bokas keeps meticulous records of the bathroom fixtures he sells from his small shop in the quiet middle-class residential neighborhood of Koukaki near the center of Athens — just in case a tax inspector makes a surprise visit to ensure Greece's 23 percent sales tax is being collected and reported correctly.
But Bokas also does installation and repair jobs — and half of those involve cash deals with no receipts for his labor. The result is that a job costing 250 euros ($275) goes for 125 euros because he doesn't charge the client sales tax and Bokas doesn't report the income for taxation. "I've got a receipt for everything I sell in my shop," Bokas said. But tax officials "don't know what my hands do."
This kind of tax dodging is a Greek national pastime, costing the state billions of euros in revenue. Greece promised last week to get tough on tax evasion in return for a third European bailout expected to be negotiated over the next month. The talks, expected to last four weeks, will start if Parliament agrees by Wednesday to eurozone demands including tax hikes and pension cuts.
But experts say Greece has largely failed in previous crackdowns on tax evasion, which has been rampant for generations. An estimated 10 billion euros in taxes never makes it into government coffers annually.
Tax dodging among Greeks started as a sign of patriotism during nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule that ended in 1821. It continues today amid mistrust over government spending and disdain over how the country's various administrations have handled Greece's financial mess after the economy imploded in 2009.
"A lot of Greeks believe it's not only a way to cheat the inefficient Greek government, but a way to exert small time resistance to the bailout agreement and tax hikes," said Aristidis Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at Athens University. "They do not perceive this as a kind of corruption."
Contributing to the problem is an informal economy that accounts for about 25 percent of Greece's annual gross domestic product. Evasion is most common in the services sector where customers don't receive a physical product, and it's not limited to small businesses like plumbers and restaurants.
In monthly reports, Greece's financial crimes unit lists finalized tax investigation cases and recent offenders include doctors, engineers, high tech firms, construction companies, clothing manufacturers, bakeries, architects and advertising agencies.
Many cases involve unreported income of hundreds of thousands of euros or more and one lawyer failed to report 16 million euros in income, the unit said in a statement last week.
But many cases go uninvestigated because of poorly trained tax investigators, personnel shortages and politically motivated appointments of tax investigation supervisors, said Haris Theoharis, who was Greece's top tax enforcer until last year and is now a lawmaker with the centrist To Potami party.
Theoharis said it's too soon to tell whether the governing far left Syriza party will mount an effective campaign against tax evasion because few specifics of its plans have been disclosed. He argued that freeing the system from political interference is key: "Unless they depoliticize the tax administration and stop trying to interfere with who gets promoted," he said, "they will not have success."
Nikolaos Artavanis, a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said the government's decision to raise the sales tax for restaurants as part of its offer in return for a bailout could prevent a tax evasion crackdown from working.
The rate is going from 6.5 percent to 13 percent for hotels and from 13 percent to 23 percent for restaurants and other businesses that sell food. Many Greek restaurant and hotel owners say they'll be forced to absorb the hike because their clients can't afford to pay more, and experts like Artavanis believe evasion could skyrocket.
"The fiscal impact could be zero or be negative because tax evasion will increase," he said. "They could get less in taxes."
More enforcement will be needed, but Artavanis said many parts of Greece rarely see a tax inspector. His research focuses on tax payments by Greek restaurants, and owners in some parts of the country have told him they have not had tax inspector visits since last August.
Bokas, the plumber and fixture vendor, said most of his customers who want no-tax jobs are apartment owners or small businesses. Larger businesses and big apartment buildings with on-site management always want a receipt for the work so they pay the full price, and Bokas collects the sales tax and pays tax on the work he does for those jobs.
He said would prefer to do all of his work legally but doubted there will be much change in Greece unless the entire country changes its habits. Unlike Greeks who distrust the government's ability to effectively spend tax money, Bokas thinks officials should be given a chance to prove they can.
"Paying all the taxes we owe would be the right thing to do and it would help us have a healthier country," he said. "If the tax were paid, the rich wouldn't be able to get richer by evading taxes and the poor wouldn't have to evade taxes so they can just get by."

maandag 13 juli 2015

Blanchard: Hoofdeconoom van het IMF over Griekenland

All eyes are on Greece, as the parties involved continue to strive for a lasting deal, spurring vigorous debate and some sharp criticisms, including of the IMF.
In this context, I thought some reflections on the main critiques could help clarify some key points of contention as well as shine a light on a possible way forward.
The main critiques, as I see them, fall under the following four categories:
  • The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
  • The financing to Greece was used to repay foreign banks.
  • Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression.
  • Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes.
Critique 1: The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
  • Even before the 2010 program, debt in Greece was 300 billion euros, or 130% of GDP.  The deficit was 36 billion euros, or 15½ % of GDP.  Debt was increasing at 12% a year, and this was clearly unsustainable.
  • Had Greece been left on its own, it would have been simply unable to borrow. Given gross financing needs of 20–25 % of GDP, it would have had to cut its budget deficit by that amount. Even if it had fully defaulted on its debt, given a primary deficit of over 10% of GDP, it would have had to cut its budget deficit by 10% of GDP from one day to the next.  These would have led to much larger adjustments and a much higher social cost than under the programs, which allowed Greece to take over 5 years to achieve a primary balance.
  • Even if existing debt had been entirely eliminated, the primary deficit, which was very large at the start of the program, would have had to be reduced. Fiscal austerity was not a choice, but a necessity. There simply wasn’t an alternative to cutting spending and raising taxes. The deficit reduction was large because the initial deficit was large. “Less fiscal austerity,” i.e., slower fiscal adjustment, would have required even more financing cum debt restructuring, and there was a political limit to what official creditors could ask their own citizens to contribute.
Critique 2: The financing given to Greece was used to repay foreign banks
  • Debt restructuring was delayed by two years. There were reasons for it, namely concerns about contagion risk (Lehman was fresh in memory), and the lack of firewalls to deal with contagion. Whether these reasons were good enough can be argued one way or the other.  In real time, the risks were perceived to be too high to proceed with restructuring.
  • Partly as a result of this delay, an important fraction of the funds in the first program were used to pay short term creditors, and to replace private debt by official debt. The bail-out did not however only benefit foreign banks, but also Greek depositors and households, as one-third of the debt was held by Greek banks and other Greek financial institutions.
  • Moreover, private creditors were not off the hook, and, in 2012, debt was substantially reduced: The 2012 private sector involvement (PSI) operation led to a haircut of more than 50% on about €200 billion of privately held debt, so leading to a decrease in debt of over €100 billion (to be concrete, a reduction of debt of 10,000 euros per Greek citizen).
  • And the shift from private to official creditors came with much better terms, namely below market rates and long maturities. Look at it this way: Cash interest payments on Greek debt last year amounted to 6 billion euros (3.2% of GDP), compared to 12 billion euros in 2009. Or put yet another way, interest payments by Greece were lower, as a proportion of GDP, than interest payments by Portugal, Ireland, or Italy.
Critique 3: Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression
  • Given the dismal productivity growth record of Greece before the program, a number of structural reforms were seen as necessary, ranging from a reform of the tax administration, to reduced barriers to entry in many professions, to reforms of pensions, to reforms of collective bargaining, to reforms of the judicial system, etc.
  • Many of these reforms were either not implemented, or not implemented on a sufficient scale. Efforts to improve tax collection and the payment culture failed completely.  There was fierce resistance to open closed sectors and professions.  Only 5 of 12 planned IMF reviews under the current program were completed, and only one has been completed since mid-2013, because of the failure to implement reforms.
  • The decrease in output was indeed much larger than had been forecast. Multipliers were larger than initially assumed.  But fiscal consolidation explains only a fraction of the output decline.  Output above potential to start, political crises, inconsistent policies, insufficient reforms, Grexit fears, low business confidence, weak banks, all contributed to the outcome.
Critique 4: Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes
  • The election of a government in 2015 openly opposed to the program further decreased ownership and required revisiting the existing program, both in terms of policies and in terms of financing.
  • A more limited set of structural reforms, or/and a slower fiscal adjustment implies, arithmetically, larger financing needs, and, by implication, more need for debt relief. To take an extreme case, if the European creditors were willing to simply forget all existing debt and extend further financing, there would be little need for more adjustment.  But, clearly, there were and are political limits to what they can ask their own citizens to contribute.
  • Thus, a realistic solution had to involve some adjustment, some financing, and some debt relief — a balanced approach. The role of the IMF in the negotiations was to ask for specific credible adjustments in policies, and make explicit the financing and debt relief implications.
  • We believed that a small primary surplus, increasing over time, was absolutely necessary to maintain debt sustainability. Having examined the budget closely, we did not see how this could be achieved without VAT reform to broaden the tax base, and pension reform to put the pension system on a sustainable footing.  On these, our views coincided fully with those of our European partners.
  • Until the referendum and its potential implications for growth, we believed that, under these assumptions about the primary surplus, debt sustainability could be achieved through the rescheduling of existing debt, and long maturities for new debt. This was reflected in the preliminary debt sustainability analysis (DSA) we put out before the referendum. Our assessment was seen as too pessimistic by our European partners to whom we had communicated our views about the need for debt relief long before publishing the debt sustainability analysis. We believe that current developments may well imply the need for even more financing, not least in support of the banks, and for even more debt relief than in our DSA.
A Path Forward 
  1. Given the results of the referendum, and the mandate given to the Greek government, we believe that there may still be room for an agreement. It should be based on a set of policies close to those discussed before the referendum, amended to take into account that the government is now requesting a 3-year program, and a more explicit recognition of the need for more financing and more debt relief.
  1. Fundamentally, the Euro area faces a political choice: lower reforms and fiscal targets for Greece means a higher cost for the creditor countries. The role of the Fund in this context is not to recommend a particular decision, but to indicate the tradeoff between less fiscal adjustment and fewer structural reforms on the one hand, and the need for more financing and debt relief on the other.
  1. The room for agreement is extremely narrow, and time is of the essence. There should be no doubt that exit from the Euro would be extremely costly for Greece and its creditors. The introduction of a new currency, and of redenomination of contracts, raises extremely complex legal and technical issues, and is likely to be associated with a further large decline in output.  It may take a long time for the depreciation of the new currency to lead to a substantial turnaround.
In sum, we still believe there is a path forward. The Fund is committed to helping Greece through this period of economic turmoil. Given Greece’s failure to make a repayment due to the IMF on June 30, the Fund would be unable to provide any financing until the arrears are cleared. However, we have offered to provide technical assistance, where requested, and we remain fully engaged.

dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Schokkende cijfers

Het blijft ongelofelijk dat we blijven praten met de Grieken. Maar de situatie kan voor Europa niet meer erger. Zowel de complete staatsschuld als bankreserves zijn ondertussen in handen van de Europese belastingbetaler. Onhoudbaar. Dit gaat ons dus veel geld kosten. We denken dan altijd weer terug aan Jan-Kees de Jager: "Alles komt met rente terug". Ik blijf me verwonderen hoe geaccepteerd het is dat politici liegen. Het is "normaal" en accepteren het alsof het niet anders kan. 4 jaar geleden was al duidelijk dat dit is wat zou gebeuren. 
In hun zogenaamde poging de euro en de Eu "te redden" , ondermijnen politici het hele fundament voor vertrouwen en steun voor deze munt en instituut. 
Nu afwachten tot de extra miljarden ze we mogen gaan bezuinigen door deze verliezen.

debt review ahead of a critical referendum in Greece on bailout terms underscores the financial and political obstacles Greece and the eurozone must overcome as they try to fix a six-year-old crisis. Here are some key numbers from the International Monetary Fund report.

€60-plus billion

Additional bailout cash needed to cover Greece’s financing needs between June 2015 and the end of 2018.

  • 40 years
    How far Greece’s debt-maturity should be extended on eurozone loans, doubled from 20 years, in order to make the country’s debt sustainable.
  • 2 percentage points of GDP
    How much Greece’s creditors offered to lower budget-surplus targets for 2015.
  • 177%
    The current ratio of Greece’s debt to gross domestic product (before capital controls were implemented this week).
  • Substantially below 110%
    The ratio of Greek debt to GDP that the IMF previously said would be sustainable by 2022.
  • 142%
    The ratio of Greek debt to GDP if Athens agrees to the creditors’ terms and the eurozone extends the country’s debt maturities.
  • 30% of GDP
    Losses eurozone taxpayers would have to take on their Greek debt holdings to reach the old debt targets of below 110% of GDP.
  • 200%
    The ratio of Greece’s public debt in 2017 if the country experiences a growth shock, such as could be caused by a prolonged period of capital controls.
  • 2%
    The IMF’s forecasted economic growth rate for the Greek economy next year–before capital controls were implemented this week. It’s a forecast that still requires “strong assumptions about labor market dynamics and structural reforms.”
  • 2020
    The year until which the eurozone would have to continue to bail out Greece if the creditors’ terms are weakened.
  • €53.1 billion
    Losses the eurozone would have to take, in addition to more bailout cash through 2020, if Greece is only able to achieve a budget surplus of 2.5% of GDP over the medium term.
  • 3.5% of GDP
    The medium-term budget surplus target assumed under the last bailout proposal offered by creditors.
  • €16 billion
    Bailout cash the IMF would provide if Greece reaches a deal according to the terms of the creditors’ last bailout offer, and if the eurozone gives Athens a debt-maturity extension.
  • Below €1 billion
    The total level of deposits in Greece’s state and commercial banks in May, before mass cash withdrawals began as bailout talks deteriorated.
  • €8 billion
    The level of bank deposits the fund says Greece should have on hand for a healthy financial system.
  • Over €7 billion
    How much Greece owes in unprocessed pension and tax refund claims and other domestic arrears. (And this number is likely higher, the fund warns: “Unreported arrears may be significant under tight financing conditions because agencies may not report all invoices received in such a constrained budgetary situation.”)
  • €50 billion
    The amount of revenue Greece agreed with its creditors in 2011 it would generate as it privatized state assets.
  • €3.2 billion
    The amount of revenue Greece generated through the privatization of assets through 2015.

zondag 5 juli 2015

Grieks referendum: NEE

Waarom steun aan de Grieken juist een crisis zal veroorzaken.
Dit betekent dat op termijn de Europese belastingbetaler de complete Griekse staatsschuld van 360 mld in handen krijgt !

De tweede reden dat dit een onmogelijk scenario is, is dat in 2014 een verwachte jaarlijkse economische groei van 3% nodig is, alleen al om de situatie te stabiliseren (de schulden worden dan nog niet minder). Dit zal absoluut niet haalbaar zijn.

Samen met alle financiële analisten en de financiële markten kan ik maar tot één conclusie komen: Griekenland steunen zal alleen maar zorgen voor uitstel van een faillissement !

Er is dus een goede motivatie voor Griekenland om de crisis zoveel mogelijk uit te stellen. Het geeft de Grieken de tijd om massaal hun geld weg te sluizen (wat nu op grote schaal gebeurt!) en de overheidsschuld over te hevelen naar de Europese belastingbetaler. De motivatie om terug te willen betalen zal met het verloop van de tijd alleen maar kleiner en kleiner worden, omdat de Grieken steeds minder belang zullen hebben om de schulden terug te betalen. De last komt immers steeds meer bij ons te liggen. De gewonde Griekse burger voelt zich helemaal niet verantwoordelijk voor de huidige situatie. Die legt de schuld bij corrupte politici en Europa. Dat ze geen belasting betalen en veel te vroeg met pensioen gaan is geen oorzaak, dat is hun recht. Hoe langer deze situatie duurt hoe meer we in gijzeling komen van de Grieken en hoe minder we te eisen zullen hebben. Uiteraard zullen de Grieken gewoon eieren voor hun geld kiezen en dan alsnog ervoor kiezen de schulden niet terug te betalen !

Wat quotes uit mijn openingspost van 4 jaar geleden ! Deze nee-stem was dus ver van te voren aan te zien komen. Kudo's voor de Griekse minister daar, hij heeft het goed gespeeld.

En nu ? Hier worden de belasting verhoogd, pensioenen verlaagd, pensioenleeftijden verhoogd, zorg verminderd etc etc. De Grieken hebben hier geen zin in en terecht, zou ik ook niet doen om die schulden terug te betalen. De grote vraag is, blijven onze politici doorgaan met ons geld over te maken. Want zo dom zijn wij dan weer. Wij blijven politici kiezen die graag ons geld uitgeven om er zelf goed uit te komen. Ze weten toch wel dat wij het blijven pikken en er niks tegen zullen doen. Het zit in onze cultuur. We proberen conflicten te vermijden tegen elke kost. Alles om maar de lieve vrede te bewaren en daarvoor laten we graag over ons heen lopen. 

maandag 29 juni 2015

Which Countries Stand to Lose Big from a Greek Default?

Ik ben heel benieuwd wat de Grieken zullen stemmen volgende week in hun referendum. Als ze verstandig zijn kiezen ze voor een faillissement met behoud van de euro. Ze hebben wat dat betreft niks meer te verliezen. De staatsschuld is al in handen van de EU en ook de banken hebben alles al in onderpand bij de ECB en rekeningen zijn leeggehaald.
Maar ja, ook daar hebben ze last van angst natuurlijk. Gaat mij benieuwen.
Op korte termijn zal het allemaal niks veranderen, na deze week zullen de financiele markten gewoon weer verder gaan alsof er niks aan de hand was, ongeacht de uitkomst.
Maar, het is nog steeds wachten op een nieuwe recessie , of schok in de wereldeconomie en dan gaat het opeens wel heel hard meetellen. En zal alle hulp aan Griekenland de crisis flink verergeren.

Eurozone Exposure to Greece
The IMF has turned up the heat on Greece’s Eurozone neighbors, calling on them to write off “significant amounts” of Greek sovereign debt.  Writing off debt, however, doesn’t make the pain disappear—it transfers it to the creditors.
No doubt, Greece’s sovereign creditors, which now own 2/3 of Greece’s €324 billion debt, are in a much stronger position to bear that pain than Greece is.  Nevertheless, we are talking real money here—2% of GDP for these creditors.
Germany, naturally, would bear the largest potential loss—€58 billion, or 1.9% of GDP.  But as a percentage of GDP, little Slovenia has the most at risk—2.6%.
The most worrying case among the creditors, though, is heavily indebted Italy, which would bear up to €39 billion in losses, or 2.4% of GDP.  Italy’s debt dynamics are ugly as is—the FT’s Wolfgang Münchau called them “unsustainable” last September, and not much has improved since then.  The IMF expects only 0.5% growth in Italy this year.
As shown in the bottom figure above, Italy’s IMF-projected new net debt for this year would more than double, from €35 billion to €74 billion, on a full Greek default—its highest annual net-debt increase since 2009.  With a Greek exit from the Eurozone, Italy will have the currency union’s second highest net debt to GDP ratio, at 114%—just behind Portugal’s 119%.
With the Bank of Italy buying up Italian debt under the ECB’s new quantitative easing program, the markets may decide to accept this with equanimity.  Yet assuming that a Greek default is accompanied by Grexit, this can’t be taken for granted.  Risk-shifting only works as long as the shiftees have the ability and willingness to bear it, and a Greek default will, around the Eurozone, undermine both.

dinsdag 16 juni 2015

Tsipras: we moeten vicieuze cirkel doorbreken

Griekenland wil uiteraard graag net als het IMF (zie eerdere berichten) dat de EU een vrijwillige schuldenverlichting toepast. Een gecontroleerd faillissement zeg maar. Waar dit al 2 keer eerder is toegepast, zoals bij de Griekse obligaties die in handen waren van de banken. (tot 70% moesten ze afschrijven!) zie ik echt wel gebeuren dat Europa niet alleen genoegen neemt met weinig hervormingen, maar ook nog eens met een vrijwillige schuldverlichting. (voor de zoveelste keer)

Mooie is dan dat de europese belastingbetaler vrijwillig zijn eigen pensioenen kort en later met pensioen gaat, zodat er genoeg geld is voor de Grieken om hun pensioenen te behouden. Ja, het moet allemaal niet gekker worden.

ATHENE (AFN/RTR) - Het is cruciaal dat Griekenland en zijn geldschieters een levensvatbaar akkoord bereiken voor de lange termijn zodat beide partijen niet elke paar maanden terug hoeven te keren naar de onderhandelingstafel. Dat zei de Griekse premier Alexis Tsipras dinsdag.
Het grootste struikelblok in de al maanden voortslepende onderhandelingen is volgens Tsipras het verschil van mening tussen de Europese crediteuren en het Internationaal Monetair Fonds (IMF) over de herstructurering van de Griekse schuldenlast. ,,De grootste tegenstrijdigheid is dat het IMF maatregelen en een herstructurering wil, terwijl Europa de nadruk legt op maatregelen zonder herstructurering. Griekenland wil een ,,IMF a la carte'', aldus de premier.

vrijdag 22 mei 2015

ECB worstelt met 'niet-politieke' rol in Griekenland

Wat is nou de functie van een centrale bank anders dan een ONafhankelijk instituut tov de politiek die voor financiële stabiliteit moet zorgen zonder de politieke motieven. Dat zijn immers de motieven die financieel gezien voor probleem zorgen. Immers ze hebben altijd een goed excuus om iets te doen waarvan ze weten dat het niet verstandig is. Een noodzakelijk kwaad ten behoeve van het grotere ideaal. Een excuus die in het verleden keer op keer voor catastrofe zorgde. Nu lijkt de situatie al decennia stabieler met de onafhankelijke CB-en. Nu is de ECB echter ook politiek geworden. Zo moest de huidige leider een Italiaan zijn nadat er een Duitser de leiding had. Eentje die op zijn Italiaans doet wat hij niet behoort te doen, maar gewoon een verlengstuk van de politiek wordt. 
Het lijkt erop dat de EU deze soapserie weer gaat verlengen en dus blijven de Grieken in de onzekerheid zitten, met alle economische gevolgen van dien. Maw nu nog steeds weten ze de situatie keer op keer juist te verergeren ipv met een oplossing te komen. Gewoon omdat ze bang zijn om een beslissing te nemen. Laat dat nou juist het enige zijn wat hun baan van ze vereist. Politici pppppffff.

De Europese Centrale Bank heeft deze week ingestemd met een opmerkelijk geringe verhoging van het zogenaamde 'ELA'-plafond voor Griekenland. Woensdagavond viel het besluit dat de ECB de Griekse centrale bank toestaat voor een maximum van €80,2 mrd aan krediet te verstrekken aan de Griekse commerciële banken. Dat zou €200 mln meer zijn dan het maximum dat een week eerder werd vastgesteld.
Woordvoerders van de ECB weigeren deze bedragen te bevestigen, maar in financiële kringen en ook in kringen rond de ECB gebeurt dat op basis van anonimiteit wel. Een verhoging met slechts €200 mln van het maximum dat Griekse banken kunnen belenen is vermoedelijk goed nieuws. Het duidt erop dat Griekse spaarders afgelopen week niet heel veel meer geld van hun bankrekeningen hebben gehaald, waardoor ook de liquiditeitsproblemen van de banken niet veel verder zijn verergerd. Blijkbaar is de noodzaak om de Griekse banken meer kredietruimte te gunnen even wat geringer.
Er is nog iets uitgelekt na de laatste bijeenkomst van de ECB over Griekenland. Daaruit komt naar voren hoezeer de ECB worstelt met haar rol in Griekenland. Het zou in de Beleidsraad van de ECB net niet tot een stemming zijn gekomen over de vraag of de gebruikelijke korting die de Griekse centrale bank voor de eigen banken hanteert bij het verstrekken van krediet omhoog moet. Het is gebruikelijk dat als banken voor een bepaald bedrag aan onderpand aanbieden, ze dan voor een lager bedrag aan krediet krijgen. Al enige weken 'dreigt' de ECB de Griekse centrale bank te verplichten een hogere korting op te leggen.
In de ogen van de ECB-bestuurders zou dat normaal standaardbeleid zijn. Ze stellen vast dat in oktober vorig jaar is besloten dat de korting omlaag kon, omdat het economisch klimaat rond Griekenland was verbeterd. Inmiddels is die verbetering volledig ongedaan gemaakt, zijn de risico's dus ook weer veel groter en stelt men bij de ECB dat een veel hogere korting weer toepasselijk zou zijn.
Alleen, dat gaat zo gemakkelijk niet, want zodra de ECB een verhoging van de korting zou afkondigen, laat zich raden wat de koppen in de media zijn: 'ECB knijpt Griekse banken verder af'. Alleen al bij de gedachte daaraan wordt men in Frankfurt nerveus, want bij de ECB is met politieke stappen liever volgend dan leidend.
Bij de ECB wacht men bij voorkeur zo lang mogelijk af wat het resultaat is van het politieke overleg met Athene over het al dan niet hervatten van het leningprogramma. Athene had gehoopt op een doorbraak op de EU-top van Riga, maar al begin deze week werd er van de zijde van EU vanuit gegaan dat een eventuele overeenkomst op zijn vroegst eind mei of begin juni te verwachten is.
In de slepende onderhandelingen van Athene met de geldschieters draait alles om de vraag of er een akkoord kan worden gesloten over een nieuwe geldinjectie voordat de Griekse staatskas echt leeg is en het land eventueel failliet gaat. Bij de Griekse banken is de situatie bijna even nijpend.
De eerste vraag is steeds in welk tempo ongeruste rekeninghouders geld van hun deposito's opnemen. In maart viel het volgens officiële cijfers mee met de geldopnames. Op 29 mei volgt de publicatie over de gang van zaken in april. In bankkringen wordt gesteld dat er die maand weer flink meer is opgenomen. Eerdere forsere verhogingen van het ELA-plafond duidden daar ook op.
Inmiddels wordt ook steeds vaker de vraag gesteld over hoeveel geschikt onderpand de Griekse banken nog beschikken dat als basis kan dienen voor extra krediet. Nog genoeg om het een week of drie, vier uit te zingen, denkt men in de markt. Behalve als er toch weer meer geld van de rekeningen wordt gehaald de komende dagen, want dan kan het opeens weer hard gaan.

vrijdag 15 mei 2015

Weidmann kritisch over steun ECB voor Grieken

- De laatste aflossing van het IMF twv €150mln werd afgelost met een noodkrediet (dat elk land kennelijk heeft bij het IMF) van het IMF ! Nu geeft ook de Duitse CB toe dat het de Grieken ongeoorloofde leningen verstrekt. Maw Griekenland is allang failliet, maar Europese politici blijven maar geld gooien in deze bodemloze put door dit allemaal toe te staan. Ze laten de Grieken met al deze ongein wegkomen tkv de europese belastingbetaler. Onlangs heeft Griekenland al gemeld dat de komende aflossingen aan de ECB uitgesteld moeten worden om Griekenland te helpen. Het is een trieste soap die de incompetentie van politici keer op keer blijft blootleggen. Helaas blijven dit soort dingen voor het grote publiek geheim omdat al deze constructies te ingewikkeld zijn om te snappen. Pas als over enkele tijd er extra bezuinigd moet worden zal het publiek wakker worden en zal men de hulp aan Griekenland als onzinnige verspilling veroordelen. Helaas zoals altijd is dat pas weer achteraf. 

FRANKFURT (AFN) - De noodsteun aan Griekse banken die met instemming van de Europese Centrale Bank (ECB) wordt verleend is in strijd met de Europese regels. Dat zegt de Duitse centralebankpresident Jens Weidmann in een vrijdag gepubliceerd interview met de Duitse krant Handelsblatt.
Weidmann wijst daarin op het verbod op de financiering van overheden via de ECB. Dat verbod wordt volgens hem overtreden doordat er kredieten worden verstrekt aan Griekse banken die geen toegang meer hebben tot de financiële markten en die het geld gebruiken om de eigen overheid van leningen te voorzien.
De kritiek van Weidmann richt zich op de verstrekking van zogeheten 'emergency liquidity assistance' (ELA). Die steun wordt niet verstrekt door de ECB, maar door de centrale bank van Griekenland. Voor de steun is echter instemming nodig van de ECB, die alleen akkoord mag gaan als de hulp is bestemd voor banken met tijdelijke geldproblemen.
Griekse banken zijn grotendeels afhankelijk geworden van de noodsteun. Door de enorme onzekerheid over de toekomst van Griekenland zien de banken veel geld wegstromen van klanten die hun spaartegoeden willen beschermen tegen een eventueel afscheid van de euro.
ECB-bestuurders kunnen met een tweederdemeerderheid besluiten de noodsteun aan de banken te staken. Daarmee zou een vertrek van de Grieken uit de euro echter heel dichtbij komen.
Volgens Weidmann wordt de ECB nu dan ook misbruikt als redder van Griekenland. ,,Het besluit over de toekomst van Griekenland in de monetaire unie moet door de politiek worden genomen. De ECB is niet verantwoordelijk voor de samenstelling van de muntunie of de verstrekking van hulpleningen.''

dinsdag 5 mei 2015

IMF wordt wakker, beetje laat natuurlijk.

Het IMF gaat nu eisen dat de EU een faillissement moet accepteren als ze willen dat het IMF helpt bijspringen. Het zal uiteraard geen faillissement genoemd worden, maar gewoon een korting op de terug te betalen gelden. 

Greek bonds are being sold off again, as investors take fright at a warning from the International Monetary Fund that Athens is at risk of losing vital financial support.
The yield on Greece's debt due in 2017 has jumped back above 20 per, up 160 basis points at publication time while the yield on its 10-year debt due in 2025 has also edged up 64 basis points to 10.77 per cent.
The FT's Peter Spiegel reported on Monday night that Greece is so far off course on its $172bn bailout programme that it faces losing vital International Monetary Fund support unless European lenders write off significant amounts of its sovereign debt.
Strategists from Rabobank pointed out that this latest warning from the IMF comes on the back of preliminary data showing that Greece is on course to rack up a primary deficit of 1.5 per cent of GDP this year compared to the 3 per cent surplus enshrined under the current bailout agreement.
This, they write in a note on Tuesday, suggests the next aid package for Greece will need to be larger than previously anticipated. They add:
the FT article is effectively highlighting a blue and white striped elephant in the room – this being that while Greece and its creditors focus upon the details of the next programme they are not only ignoring the fact that the country's finances are unsustainable but, in so doing, are actually making matters worse.

woensdag 29 april 2015

Greek bank deposits fall to ten-year low

- Grieken hebben hun geld nu grotendeels wel veiliggesteld , daar mogen ze de ECB voor bedanken. Dus naast de overheidsschulden , zijn de bankrisico's nu ook overgeheveld naar de Europese belastingbetaler. Griekenland is nu eindelijk klaar om op onze kosten failliet te gaan. Fijn dat wij de verantwoordelijkheid mogen dragen voor de keuzes die zij hebben gemaakt. Dit allemaal door onze politici die graag ons geldrondstrooien onder het excuus om de boel bij elkaar te houden. Dat mag best wat kosten natuurlijk. 

There has been no respite for Greek banks.
Money continued to flow out of the cash-strapped nation's banking system in March, as depositors took flight amid continued wrangling between Athens and its eurozone creditors over the terms of a bailout as Greece teeters on the edge of running out of cash.
Deposits in the Greek banking system fell to their lowest since May 2005 last month, according to European Central Bank data, slipping to €145bn, from €147.5bn in February.
That fall of €2.5 billion compares with much larger outflows in the previous three months, however (see chart) suggesting that wealthy Greek savers and large companies able to move money abroad have mostly done so.
Finance ministers of the European countries that have been propping Greece up since the eurozone crisis are refusing to unlock previously agreed bailout funds until radical Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras restarts austerity measures that have proven severely unpopular with domestic voters.
But the European Central Bank also makes last-ditch funds available to Greek lenders under its ELA - emergency liquidity assistance - programme.
It is currently unclear whether a Greek default on a €200m payment that is due to the International Monetary Fund on May 1 would trigger a cancellation of the ELA. Bloomberg is reporting, in fact, that the ECB's governing council has recently lifted the cap on the maximum it can offer under the ELA by €1.4bn to €76.9bn.

maandag 27 april 2015

3 Tough Choices for ECB on Greece

Een bericht over het verhaal hoe de ECB de europese belastingbetaler steeds meer in de problemen brengt om het simpele feit dat ze het politiek niet haalbaar vinden om de stekker eruit te trekken. Dit ondanks dat ze al heel lang weten dat dat financieel het beste is. 
Maar ja, het is niet hun eigen geld waar ze over beslissen en dan is het makkelijk om je beslissingen te rechtvaardigen onder het mom van verschillende politieke redenen (lees gekonkel) die dan belangrijker zouden zijn dan het geld wat verloren wordt. 

Griekenland is maar 2% van de Europese economie en het aankomende faillissement zal wat dat betreft weinig gevolgen hebben. Ook het financiele systeem zal er geen last van hebben, die hebben een Grieks faillissement al een paar jaar geleden voor de kiezen gehad en verwerkt. (banken die 70% verlies hebben moeten nemen op hun Griekse Staatsobligaties)

Vraag is wat dit met het vertrouwen van de Europese belastingbetaler gaat doen als ze erachter gaan komen hoeveel geld dit grapje gekost heeft. Dat naast alle bezuinigen die ze al hebben moeten doen en nog moeten doen, pensioenen die versobert moeten worden, een versoberde verzorgingsstaat etc etc, ze ook nog eens extra belast gaan worden door dit faillissement. 

Zal het gebrek aan lef van onze politici die in hun beleving zo hard bezig zijn om de EU te redden door Griekenland maar te blijven accommoderen er juist voor zorgen dat dit het vertrouwen in de EU ondermijnt wordt bij europese belastingbetalers ?

As another meeting of euro area finance ministers ended in acrimonyFriday, the focus this week will turn to the resumption of -- it is to be hoped -- more constructive technical discussions between Greece and its European partners. Yet the most potentially decisive discussions will be taking place in a different venue: Decision makers at the European Central Bank’s will hold their weekly consideration of how much “emergency liquidity” they should extend to Greek banks and on what terms.
At its weekly meeting, on April 29, the ECB will be under tremendous pressure to keep Greece on its life support system. But without progress elsewhere, this powerful monetary institution is at risk of joining other actors in the Greek drama that are unintentionally transitioning from being a major part of the solution to a big part of the problem now and in the future. This risk is symptomatic of  the much larger dysfunctions undermining a comprehensive and sustainable outlook for Greece within the euro zone.
The ECB decision will involve some variant of three basic alternatives:
1. Pretend and extend. The ECB, through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance operated by its network of national central banks, would continue to extend exceptional funding to Greece. This would be done under the pretense that it is helping Greece deal with a liquidity problem instead of acknowledging the country's true predicament, deep economic and solvency deficiencies. This approach has the advantage of keeping options open in the hope that Greece and its creditors will finally break through to decisive policy and financial solutions. The downside is that it would increase the ECB's financial exposure to a problem case that, at least so far, has shown little chance of resolving itself in an orderly fashion. It would also raise concerns about burden-sharing as the ECB would act even as other creditors, not only from the private sector but also public institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, are scheduled to get repaid.
2. Pull the plug. Under this scenario, the ECB would be forthright. It would limit any further financing to Greece, raising not only the legitimate burden-sharing issues but also rightly noting that liquidity support would continue to prove ineffective without accompanying measures to improve growth and financial solvency. It would make further assistance conditional both on policy progress and new money to Greece from other sources, along with debt reduction. If such conditions failed to be met, the ECB decision would likely lead to even greater capital and deposit flight from Greece. And this, under most realistic scenarios, would prompt the Greek government to impose capital controls, default on payments and take even more draconian steps to gain control of any idle cash balances in the country. All of these developments would increase the risk of Greece exiting the euro zone.
3. Pull the plug as part of a comprehensive Plan B. In this case, the ECB’s refusal to extend additional liquidity support would be part of an attempt (albeit a risky one) at an orderly pivot for both the euro zone and Greece. The ECB would seek to minimize the risk of Greekcontagion and disorderly spillovers to other economies (such as Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain) by expanding its funding windows for both governments and financial institutions. It would also step upits large-scale program of security purchases (known as quantitative easing). Meanwhile, work would proceed on some sort of interim European arrangement for Greece, including the possibility of an association agreement with the European Union or, even, remaining in the EU but outside the euro zone, like the U.K. 
One of the big lessons of the last few years is that, regardless of the facts on the ground, no one -- whether on the Greek side or among its official national, regional and international creditors -- wishes to go down in history as the cause of the first exit from the single currency. For that reason, the ECB would most likely opt again for the first option -- extending the ELA and pretending that a durable solution is around the corner -- and it would hope that its involvement wouldn't be overwhelmed by funding demands caused by accelerated deposit flight from Greek banks.
All this speaks to what is perhaps the greatest tragedy of all. For several years, very few people -- whether in Greece, among its European partners or in the ECB, EU and IMF -- have stepped up to the challenge of a lifetime: that of either taking decisive breakthrough policy actions or properly pressing the reset button. Instead, the decision has been to engage in a collective muddle-through, hoping some perfect -- indeed, immaculate -- solution would appear down the road.
 Such a solution is hard to come by. And the wait for one is far from cost-free.
Millions of Greeks, including an alarming portion of the country's youth, have become mired in devastating unemployment and spreading poverty. And with hundreds of millions of euros of debt obligations having been transferred from the private sector to European taxpayers, the would-be solvers of this Greek tragedy have become a growing part of the problem.