Greece default would spark bid to limit capital flight, contagion

GMT 16:33 2015 Friday ,26 June

Arab Today, arab today Greece default would spark bid to limit capital flight, contagion

Should Athens fail to reach a bailout
Paris - AFP

Should Athens fail to reach a bailout and end up defaulting, attention will focus on preventing massive capital flight from Greece, and containing market alarm from destabilising other eurozone economies.

After a flurry of meetings this week between Greece and its creditors produced no deal to unlock bailout funds Athens desperately needs to honour a June 30 payment to the IMF, the Saturday meeting of eurozone finance ministers is now considered the last chance to conclude an accord in time for approval by national parliaments.

In talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said Saturday's "meeting was crucial and decisive and that it was vital now to work towards a deal on a package that includes reforms, investment and financing," a source said.

Failing such an accord between Greece and its creditors -- the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- Athens appears certain to default in its 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) IMF payment on Tuesday, the same day that the current Greek bailout programme expires.
The spectre of a Greek default and a chaotic exit from the eurozone has officials across Europe already pondering contingency plans to deal with markets and Greek account holders Monday morning if the lack of an accord leaves the worst-case scenario looking inevitable.

Natixis analysts Jesus Castillo and Alan Lemagnen say one reaction by the Greek government could be to order that the nation's banks remain closed in order to avoid a run by customers, awaiting quick passage of restrictions on capital being moved out of the country.

Something similar to those moves were made in 2013, when Cyprus imposed drastic limitations on cash withdrawals and money transfers abroad when its banks faced crisis due to bad debt ratios -- in large part due to a writedown by Greece of the value of its bonds.

Under such a scenario, as Athens moved to limit capital outflows next week, European leaders would act to prevent the "contagion" of instability that flowed from Greece in 2012 to other financially-troubled eurozone members like Spain, Portugal and Ireland.
That disruption was caused by spooked investors shunning the bonds of vulnerable countries, sending their borrowing rates unsustainably high. At the same time, banks in healthier eurozone countries holding debt of weak eurozone nations were suddenly seen as a risk.

But risk of renewed contagion has been greatly reduced by firewalls constructed since 2010 by eurozone authorities, and the creation of a European banking union to police lenders and oversee collective response to crises.

And in the meantime, most European banks have significantly wound down their exposure to Greece and other troubled eurozone members.

- ECB to 'buy time' -

The ECB also now has tools unavailable to it in 2010. It is in the midst of successful quantitive easing programme injecting liquidity into the eurozone economy, and could easily step up its purchases of sovereign bonds if investors dump debt.

It could also deploy the thus far unused "outright monetary transactions" to purchase sovereign debt -- a plan it unveiled in 2012 to calm panicked markets, and which has recently cleared legal challenges from opponents.
But Alexandre Delaigue, an economy professor at the University of Lille, said that rather than seeing any decisive moves in coming days, he expects the ECB "to buy time to allow discussions to continue."

To achieve that, the Frankfurt-based central bank would have to maintain its emergency liquidity funding to Greek banks to prevent their collapse -- and in doing so withstand probably heated opposition from Germany.

So far ECB chief Mario Draghi has refused to cut emergency funding for Greek banks, which would lead to their collapse and push the government to default and a euro exit.

According to Diego Iscaro, an economist with IHS Global Insight, the ECB cannot afford to make the political decision of allowing Greece to exit the eurozone by denying it continued aid, even if Draghi would likely to demand tighter conditions from Athens for it.


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