The Eurogroup hath spoken – Key decisions to propel Greece forward

So the deal is done.  Early this morning the Eurogroup concluded its deliberations on the Greek bailout. It is no longer a question of whether policy proposal “X” (haircut size, monitoring, payment systems, and prior conditions) is decided.  The issue is now implementation. We attach the final Eurogroup communique from February 21 at the end of this post.   Since more or less the entire financial press in Europe and many of its global affiliates will be reviewing the agreement, we thought Reform Watch Greece should briefly highlight a few key points and provide a short assessment on whether these measures will help structural reform proceed in Greece.

Preamble:  We cite this text section, with extremely blunt language, as evidence that the Eurogroup was intent on sending a clear message to the Greek population that this program is not simply something they can opt to ignore (our italics for emphasis):    “This new programme provides a comprehensive blueprint for putting the public finances and the economy of Greece back on a sustainable footing and hence for safeguarding financial stability in Greece and in the euro area as a whole. The Eurogroup is fully aware of the significant efforts already made by the Greek citizens but also underlines that further major efforts by the Greek society are needed to return the economy to a sustainable growth path.”

Monitoring:  Seemingly bowing to German concerns, the Eurogroup requested the European Commission to enhance and to expand the role of the existing EC Task Force for Greece, including a new permanent on-the-ground role.  Additional EU member states’ expertise is also requested. This proposal is of course certain to generate new political resistance in Greece, across a wide spectrum.  Note: The IMF already has a more or less permanent presence here, via its low profile Resident Representative in Athens.  The communique further states that “Euro area Member States stand ready to provide experts to be integrated into the Task Force. The Eurogroup also welcomes the stronger on site-monitoring capacity by the Commission to work in close and continuous cooperation with the Greek government in order to assist the Troika in assessing the conformity of measures that will be taken by the Greek government, thereby ensuring the timely and full implementation of the programme.”

Debt Repayment Prioritization:  We have already witnessed a series of Greek politicians reacting almost rabidly to the concept that debt service would be given a higher priority than other domestic expenditures, since for many it raises sovereignty concerns. Some have even threatened to press for a debt-servicing moratorium.  In the negotiations over the bailout package, Greece also undertook to insert a modification to its constitution, when possible, allowing this obligation to be fulfilled, but for the foreseeable future a Troika-supervised accounting mechanism managed by the Ministry of Finance and its appointees will actually be utilized.   “The Eurogroup also welcomes Greece’s intention to put in place a mechanism that allows better tracing and monitoring of the official borrowing and internally-generated funds destined to service Greece’s debt by, under monitoring of the troika, paying an amount corresponding to the coming quarter’s debt service directly to a segregated account of Greece’s paying agent.  Finally, the Eurogroup in this context welcomes the intention of the Greek authorities to introduce over the next two months in the Greek legal framework a provision ensuring that priority is granted to debt servicing payments. This provision will be introduced in the Greek constitution as soon as possible.”

PSI: A large part of the communique deals with PSI modalities, of less concern to us than the implementation of structural reform. We will avoid comment on these points.

A Closing Warning:  The final section of the Eurogroup communique is far more than a comforting closing statement of support. After the timing/details of the decision process are spelled out, the document closes with an emphatic reminder about the need for Greece to fully comply with program conditionality, the so-called “prior actions.”  If Greece had a better track record on structural reforms, we doubt that we would have seen such a clear formulation/warning:   “It is understood that the disbursements for the PSI operation and the final decision to approve the guarantees for the second programme are subject to a successful PSI operation and confirmation, by the Eurogroup on the basis of an assessment by the Troika, of the legal implementation by Greece of the agreed prior actions. The official sector will decide on the precise amount of financial assistance to be provided in the context of the second Greek programme in early March, once the results of PSI are known and the prior actions have been implemented.  We reiterate our commitment to provide adequate support to Greece during the life of the programme and beyond until it has regained market access, provided that Greece fully complies with the requirements and objectives of the adjustment programme.”  In no uncertain terms, the message is, “we are watching you.”

Start full communique text:  “The Eurogroup welcomes the agreement reached with the Greek government on a policy package that constitutes the basis for the successor programme. We also welcome the approval of the policy package by the Greek parliament, the identification of additional structural expenditure reductions of  325 million to close the fiscal gap in 2012 and the provision of assurances by the leaders of the two coalition parties regarding the implementation of the programme beyond the forthcoming general elections.

This new programme provides a comprehensive blueprint for putting the public finances and the economy of Greece back on a sustainable footing and hence for safeguarding financial stability in Greece and in the euro area as a whole.

The Eurogroup is fully aware of the significant efforts already made by the Greek citizens but also underlines that further major efforts by the Greek society are needed to return the economy to a sustainable growth path.

Ensuring debt sustainability and restoring competiveness are the main goals of the new programme. Its success hinges critically on its thorough implementation by Greece.

This implies that Greece must achieve the ambitious but realistic fiscal consolidation targets so as to return to a primary surplus as from 2013, carry out fully the privatisation plans and implement the bold structural reform agenda, in both the labour market and product and service markets, in order to promote competitiveness, employment and sustainable growth.

To this end, we deem essential a further strengthening of Greece’s institutional capacity. We therefore invite the Commission to significantly strengthen its Task Force for Greece, in particular through an enhanced and permanent presence on the ground in Greece, in order to bolster its capacity to provide and coordinate technical assistance.

Euro area Member States stand ready to provide experts to be integrated into the Task Force. The Eurogroup also welcomes the stronger on site-monitoring capacity by the Commission to work in close and continuous cooperation with the Greek government in order to assist the Troika in assessing the conformity of measures that will be taken by the Greek government, thereby ensuring the timely and full implementation of the programme.

The Eurogroup also welcomes Greece’s intention to put in place a mechanism that allows better tracing and monitoring of the official borrowing and internally-generated funds destined to service Greece’s debt by, under monitoring of the troika, paying an amount corresponding to the coming quarter’s debt service directly to a segregated account of Greece’s paying agent.

Finally, the Eurogroup in this context welcomes the intention of the Greek authorities to introduce over the next two months in the Greek legal framework a provision ensuring that priority is granted to debt servicing payments. This provision will be introduced in the Greek constitution as soon as possible.

The Eurogroup acknowledges the common understanding that has been reached between the Greek authorities and the private sector on the general terms of the PSI exchange offer, covering all private sector bondholders. This common understanding provides for a nominal haircut amounting to 53.5%. The Eurogroup considers that this agreement constitutes an appropriate basis for launching the invitation for the exchange to holders of Greek government bonds (PSI).

A successful PSI operation is a necessary condition for a successor programme. The Eurogroup looks forward to a high participation of private creditors in the debt exchange, which should deliver a significant positive contribution to Greece’s debt sustainability.

The Eurogroup considers that the necessary elements are now in place for Member States to carry out the relevant national procedures to allow for the provision by EFSF of (i) a buy back scheme for Greek marketable debt instruments for Eurosystem monetary policy operations, (ii) the euro area’s contribution to the PSI exercise, (iii) the repayment of accrued interest on Greek government bonds, and (iv) the residual (post PSI) financing for the second Greek adjustment programme, including the necessary financing for recapitalisation of Greek banks in case of financial stability concerns.

The Eurogroup takes note that the Eurosystem (ECB and NCBs) holdings of Greek government bonds have been held for public policy purposes. The Eurogroup takes note that the income generated by the Eurosystem holdings of Greek Government bonds will contribute to the profit of the ECB and of the NCBs. The ECB’s profit will be disbursed to the NCBs, in line with the ECB’s statutory profit distribution rules. The NCBs’ profits will be disbursed to euro area Member States in line with the NCBs’ statutory profit distribution rules.

– The Eurogroup has agreed that certain government revenues that emanate from the SMP profits disbursed by NCBs may be allocated by Member States to further improving the sustainability of Greece’s public debt.

All Member States have agreed to an additional retroactive lowering of the interest rates of the Greek Loan Facility so that the margin amounts to 150 basis points. There will be no additional compensation for higher funding costs. This will bring down the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2020 by 2.8pp and lower financing needs by around 1.4 bn euro over the programme period. National procedures for the ratification of this amendment to the Greek Loan Facility Agreement need to be urgently initiated so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.

– Furthermore, governments of Member States where central banks currently hold Greek government bonds in their investment portfolio commit to pass on to Greece an amount equal to any future income accruing to their national central bank stemming from this portfolio until 2020. These income flows would be expected to help reducing the Greek debt ratio by 1.8pp by 2020 and are estimated to lower the financing needs over the programme period by approximately 1.8 bn euro.

The respective contributions from the private and the official sector should ensure that Greece’s public debt ratio is brought on a downward path reaching 120.5% of GDP by 2020.

On this basis, and provided policy conditionality under the programme is met on an ongoing basis, the Eurogroup confirms that euro area Member States stand ready to provide, through the EFSF and with the expectation that the IMF will make a significant contribution, additional official programme of up to 130 bn euro until 2014.

It is understood that the disbursements for the PSI operation and the final decision to approve the guarantees for the second programme are subject to a successful PSI operation and confirmation, by the Eurogroup on the basis of an assessment by the Troika, of the legal implementation by Greece of the agreed prior actions. The official sector will decide on the precise amount of financial assistance to be provided in the context of the second Greek programme in early March, once the results of PSI are known and the prior actions have been implemented.

We reiterate our commitment to provide adequate support to Greece during the life of the programme and beyond until it has regained market access, provided that Greece fully complies with the requirements and objectives of the adjustment programme.”  End text. 

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One thought on “The Eurogroup hath spoken – Key decisions to propel Greece forward

  1. It is all a waste fo time. This agreement just buys more time for Germany and more pain for Greece, … STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL – Greece: Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis, Feb 15 2012 …. a leaked document from the “Troika” that talks of Greek debt reaching 178% of GDP in 2015, and even assuming growth recovers, only droppng to 160% of GDP by 2020 (which we all know is when it is meant to be [an unsustainable] 120%). See page 6. All that happened last night was that Germany bought more time …. http://www.scribd.com/doc/82247382/Greek-Sustainability-Proposal

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