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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/Press Association Images Front pages of Greek newspapers in Athens today

Greek debt deal 'not enough' to save country - diplomat

Even with a huge writedown Greece’s debts would still be above the acceptable level, a European diplomat has said.

CURRENT PLANS TO save Greece from financial collapse would still leave the country with debt far above the maximum level set by its international creditors, a European diplomat said Thursday.

When they tentatively agreed on more help for Greece in October, the leaders of the 17 euro countries said the country’s debt load had come down to 120 percent of its economic output by 2020 – the maximum they said was manageable without external support. The new level is now expected to be closer to 129 per cent, the diplomat said.

The fact that even substantial new help, both from the eurozone and private bondholders, cannot sufficiently decrease Greece’s debt load is one of the main reasons doubts over a second, €130 billion bailout for Athens have emerged.

The diplomat was citing figures from a new report by Greece’s international debt inspectors – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

The report analyses Greece’s growth prospects over the coming years as well as the impact of new austerity measures promised by Athens, a €100 billion debt relief Greece has negotiated with private bondholders and the new bailout.

The diplomat was speaking on condition of anonymity because the report is confidential. He couldn’t say into how much money would be necessary to close the gap between the 129 percent and the 120 percent target. At the moment Greece’s debt is just above 160 percent of economic output and, without the debt relief, it would rise to around 200 percent by the end of this year.

How to close the gap?

The fact that there is a financing gap in the new aid program has been known for some time and is one of the main reasons the debate over the new bailout has heated up in recent days. Politicians – particularly those from rich countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – have cited the so-called debt sustainability analysis for Greece as one of the main elements in their decision over whether to send more money to Athens.

Officials from the eurozone countries, the Commission and the IMF have been discussing for weeks how to close the gap to the 120 percent goal.

The biggest hopes have been laid on the ECB, which holds some €50 billion to €55 billion in Greek government bonds. Since the central bank bought these bonds at a discount – analysts estimate the ECB spent around €40 billion – it stands to make a hefty profit if they get repaid in full.

In recent days, concern has crept back into the markets that Greece could still be forced into a disorderly default on a vital €14.5 billion ($19 billion) bond repayment due next month.

In addition to the financing gap revealed in the new report, politicians in several countries have questioned the commitments of the leaders of Greece’s main political parties to implement promised reforms and cuts even after elections expected in April.

“We can help (Greece), but we can’t pour (money) into a bottomless pit,” Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told German Suedwestrundfunk radio yesterday.

More: Some eurozone countries ‘dont want us any more’ – Greek finance minister>

Associated Foreign Press
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