Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Greek Debt is not that large


The NYTimes tells us that Greek debt is out of control, and financial markets fear that a default is around the corner.  It might be true, but the size is not a big problem. According to the Times:
"Total Greek public debt is about 370 billion euros, or $500 billion. By comparison, Argentina’s debt was $82 billion when it defaulted in 2001; when Russia defaulted, in 1998, its debt was $79 billion."
The point of this is that it is supposed to be large even when compared to Argentina and Russia that defaulted. Note, however, that the GDP of the euro-17 (the 17 countries of the euro currency area) is around 12.3 trillion euros, and as a result Greek debt corresponds to slightly more than 3% of the euro-17 income.  It is true that the euro countries, or the ECB, may not want for political reasons to buy Greek bonds, but given its size and the potential risks it is puzzling, to say the least.

In Argentina and Russia that option was out of the table altogether, since debts were in dollars, and no world central bank could stand to actually buy their bonds. So default was the only alternative. At this point, it is as if the ECB and the European elites do not want to save the euro. And the Greek people's patience is running thin.

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