Monday 22 January 2018

Price of Greek collapse: €380 for every Irish person

Greek drachma
Finance Minister Michael Noonan chats with Luxembourg's Prime Minister and Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar. Photo: Reuters

Donal O'Donovan and Laura Noonan

AN economic collapse in Greece would cost €380 each for every man, woman and child in Ireland if our share of the Greek bailout is wiped out, according to Irish Independent calculations.

The true costs would be greater still because Ireland would be swept up in what analysts have warned could be a five-year financial crash if Greece were to exit the currency.

Greece's escalating woes dominated a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels yesterday.

On his way into the meeting, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he would give the Greeks "any support I can" to ensure they "achieve the objective" of staying in the eurozone.

"They have to set their own house in order," he added. "When you analyse it, their problem is not really economic or fiscal; the immediate problem in Athens is a democratic problem. There has been an election but so far they have not been able to negotiate a government arising from the election."

It means the debt crisis has entered a dangerous new phase as the latest risk means that a partial break-up of the euro -- once seen as a remote risk -- is now being treated as the most likely scenario by investors.

There is no model for how a Greek euro exit could work, with bank runs in Greece a real possibility as people there fear their savings could be transformed into drachmas.

That in turn has raised fears of a major financial meltdown spreading to Ireland.

This country has almost no meaningful trade ties with our most distant EU neighbour, and in fact is owed little by the Greek state or businesses there.

Ireland's only major exposure to Greece is indirect -- our share of the country's eurozone bailouts.

US banking giant Citi says the loans to Greece now stand at €160bn, owed either to the ECB or eurozone countries as a share of the bailout.

Ireland's share of that would be just over 1pc, or a little over €380 per person, though the exact figure is complicated because Ireland is getting its own eurozone loans.

Rating agency Fitch is warning of a "shock case scenario" if Greece leaves the euro under chaotic circumstances, which would be worse than the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

"It would have widespread implications for economic growth, leading to something close to the "shock case" scenario we have previously outlined -- a step change in GDP output which sees steep contraction in the first two years followed by three years of eurozone GDP below its pre-recession (ie 2011) level.

Ireland would be one of the countries worst hit, Fitch said.

Even a so-called "orderly" Greek exit was likely to hit Ireland, the agency warned.

Irish Independent

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