The Guardian — The International Monetary Fund has resurrected an old technique – commonly used in the 1980s during the Latin American debt crisis – that would allow Greece to avoid a payment default next month on debt owed to European creditors. The reprieve also gives the IMF and its European partners time to sort out their technical differences on the struggling country’s growth and budget outlook. But the fund’s elegant compromise still leaves Greece under the shadow of an enormous debt overhang; reducing it requires that Europe find a way to set aside national politics and act on the basis of economic logic and necessity.
For those who have been following the Greek economic tragedy for many years, much of the European view continues to defy economic logic – and for a simple reason: European politicians worry about the domestic political consequences of granting Greece debt relief, especially ahead of Germany’s federal election in September. Offering debt relief, it is feared, could undermine the credibility of governing parties and provide a boost to extremist movements.
Meanwhile in Greece, growth is languishing once again, despite the pickup in European economic performance as a whole.
Having used the ‘in principle approval’ compromise, the IMF should now stick to its guns and refuse to make its arrangement for Greece operational until it is satisfied on both debt relief and technical assumptions. And, rather than declare victory, as they were inclined to do in a mid-June statement by eurozone finance ministers, European officials should treat this compromise as the next step in softening its increasingly untenable stance on Greek debt.