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2nd Quarter Commentary: Greece is the Word (July 1st, 2015)
Believe it or not, as of Monday evening I had received only three emails and one phone call about Greece. I'm not sure if that means no one had turned on CNBC yet, or that they were proudly wearing their "I survived the 2008-9 crisis, so bring it on!" merit badge. Just in case you were standing on the roof staring into the abyss that is Greece, I'll offer a few thoughts and some perspective in the hopes that they will prevent you from jumping.
First of all some background, in the event you've understandably and perhaps wisely, tuned out the never-ending story of Modern Greece's economic demise. The Cliff Notes version of the story is that the Greek government, over a period of years including its time hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics
(btw: here's a slide show of the modern ruins from that recent Greek Olympiad), issued more bonds than, in retrospect, it could possibly pay back. The total debt peaked at somewhere around $340 billion, which is actually more than the $242 billion in goods and services that the entire Greek economy produces in a year. The European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other groups have collectively extended loans and extensions amounting to $217 billion to date. Those groups have now said, "No more!" and roughly $7 billion in payments are due in July and August.
Unsurprisingly, it has become apparent that Greece doesn't have the money to make the upcoming payments, and in return for any additional concessions, the various creditors are asking Greece to do the following: reduce pension payments to current and retired workers by 40%, raise the retirement age to 67 sooner rather than later, phase out supplemental bonuses for poorer retirees a year earlier than is currently scheduled, and cut back on early retirement immediately.
The newly-elected and very left-leaning (read: socialist) Greek government, led by Alexis Tsipras of the Syriza party, ran on a platform of rejecting any further budget concessions and compromises, and again - not surprisingly - this turned out to be an extremely successful political strategy in Greece: the party won 149 out of the 300 seats in the Greek Parliament in what has been regarded as a rousing popular mandate.
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