Thinking the Unthinkable
This post was written by John McHale
Even as Greece appears willing to accept a larger austerity package in return for a much-expanded financing package, some leading economists are contemplating radical alternatives.
Paul Krugman no longer sees a euro exit as impossible (NYT article here):
So what will happen to the euro? Until recently, most analysts, myself included, considered a euro breakup basically impossible, since any government that even hinted that it was considering leaving the euro would be inviting a catastrophic run on its banks. But if the crisis countries are forced into default, they’ll probably face severe bank runs anyway, forcing them into emergency measures like temporary restrictions on bank withdrawals. This would open the door to euro exit.
Nouriel Roubini and Arnab Das argue in the Financial Times for a Plan B that involves a pre-emptive debt restructuring:
Continuing on the path of least resistance – a “Plan A” of official financing banking on a mix of deep fiscal cuts, inadequate structural reforms and hopes that markets will stay open, with growth doing much of the heavy lifting – is a risky bet that is very likely to fail. Already this week, financial markets and credit rating agencies have voted against this approach and started to price in a high probability that Greece will need to restructure its public debt coercively, with contagion to the rest of the eurozone periphery now a serious risk. Augmenting the programme for Greece alone – up to €100-€120bn as suggested by the IMF – will not work either.
Far better to move to Plan B. This would involve a pre-emptive debt restructuring for Greece; a strengthened fiscal adjustment plan in the eurozone periphery; far-reaching structural reforms; a larger IMF/European Union programme to help Greece and prevent contagion to others; further monetary easing by the European Central Bank; fiscal and domestic demand stimulus in Germany; and a co-ordinated effort to address the institutional weaknesses of Europe’s economic and monetary union.