Greece said she could not proceed with a new version of the loan agreement, but seems now to be negotiating over its terms. She has conceded she accepts 70% of the old conditions. Greece refused to sit down with the troika of the EU, the ECB and the IMF, but Greek officials have held exploratory talks with each of those bodies apparently. It appears that Homer nods.
Meanwhile Germany and her allies in the rest of the Eurozone have allowed the European Central Bank to lend more money to Greece. It is being done by the Emergency liquidity assistance scheme, where Greece has now run up a bill of Euro 65 billion. The money has been needed to pay for deposit flight from Greek banks. Those same Greek banks have been buying Greek state Treasury Bills, to allow the Greek state to spend more than it collects in taxes, something it was not meant to do under the rules of the loans. It appears that Germany has given way on the hugely important issue of no more borrowings. Germany bows.
The outgoing Greek government was pleased to announce that after many cuts it was only spending day by day what it was raising in tax revenue, leaving aside debt service. This government seemed to think that would continue and placed it in a stronger position, as it did not need new loans for current spending. Instead in January tax revenues fell, leaving the accounts back in deficit.
There can be no winners in a compromise. The two sides started so far apart that both sides will have to surrender a lot if there is to be an agreement. Greece will have to accept some creditor imposed discipline and controls over both her spending and revenue collection in return for new loans. She will not like all the policies this requires. The rest of Euroland will have to lend Greece yet more money, and probably agree to a cut in the money they will get back for past loans by some new debt deal. Such a compromise will not be the end to the saga, as it is likely to leave Greek finances still precariously placed. All may agree new language about growth and an end to austerity, but when a state is spending more than it earns, and has outlived its creditors’ patience, there do have to be cuts in spending it does not want, and creditors have to come up with more money or demand less back. There is no third way, no win win.