Saturday, 16 June 2012

What a Return to the Drachma Really Looks Like

BLOOMBERG: From a distance, returning to the drachma seems like a great solution for Greece. Economists such as New York University’s Nouriel Roubini say that by quitting the euro, Greece would seize control of its fate. It could pay off its euro debts with less valuable drachmas—stiffing creditors. Having a cheap currency would make Greece’s goods and services more affordable, drachma advocates say, shrinking a current-account deficit that’s about 9 percent of the entire economy. It actually poses a huge risk.

There’s no question that quitting the euro would be an easy way for Greece to shrink its unsupportable debt. Yet if Greece does leave or is kicked out of the single currency, it will most probably suffer inflation, layoffs, capital flight, shortages of essential commodities, and civil unrest, judging from what happened in Argentina when that country quit its dollar peg a decade ago. “Leaving is difficult and messy, so anyone who thinks it’s easy is just wrong,” says Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a University of Chicago-trained economist who left the European Central Bank’s executive board last year.

What’s more, Greece is likely to find that a devalued currency doesn’t buy competitiveness. Outside of agriculture, many Greek exporters rely on imported components and raw materials that would soar in price in drachma terms, erasing the hope that exports could quickly lead the nation back to a trade balance. » | Peter Coy, Nick Malkoutzis, Carol Matlack, and Gabi Thesing | Thursday, May 24, 2012