Debt peaking at a 192% of GDP in 2014! Astonishing given that less than six months ago the EU/IMF/ECB Troika seemed supremely confident that Greek GDP could stabilise at 120% of GDP by 2020 and would peak in 2013 at only 167% of GDP. (It’s also worth checking out this FT Alphaville post which highlights just how wrong some of the previous estimates were).
It’s easy to say that Greece failed to fully implement reforms and adhere to the bailout conditions (which it did) but at some point the failure of policies themselves and the fudging of the numbers must be admitted.
To many of us all of this was already abundantly clear but the release of the official figures confirming it at least ensures that the political debate will need to be moved on – expect ‘Grexit’ discussions to return to the headlines with a vengeance.
There are also a few interesting nuggets in the budget which suggest to us that further revisions may be likely:
- Firstly, unemployment is expected to go from 22.4% this year to 22.8% next year and then decline to 17.1% in 2016. It’s hard to see how this can happen with both government and private spending expected to fall over this period, while there will also be plenty of labour market reforms which tend to increase unemployment, at least in the short term.
- Despite dropping by 15% this year, investments are expected to fall by only 3.7% next year and then return to growth. Again this seems massively optimistic without a permanent fiscal transfer supporting Greece and remove the cloud of a Grexit which continues to deter investors.
- Exports are expected to grow at an increasing rate over the next five years, despite the eurozone and the global economy potentially posting low levels of growth.
- Private consumption is expected to fall by 7% next year (after 7.7% this year), and yet this is expected to be consistent with a 4.5% contraction in GDP rather than a 6.5% one seen this year. Combined with falling government spending and structural reform this is again hard to imagine.
- Table 2.5 highlights what could happen if Greece does not implement its medium term fiscal strategy (aka. its austerity packages and structural reforms), putting debt at 220% of GDP in 2016. This highlights how easily the levels could once again veer off track if many of these unrealistic targets are not met.