Yesterday’s casual approach to the Italian debt markets by the Euro area does not breed confidence in the currency. It is true the European Central Bank intervened to buy some Italian bonds. It did not do so on a scale sufficient to get the yields down to acceptable levels.
Leaking rumours that France and Germany are now ready to slim the Eurozone down, and press ahead to fiscal union with a smaller group of countries will merely fuel the bears and help exacerbate the crisis. As one who has consistently preferred splitting up the Euro zone and doing it quickly as the best solution, I just wish they would get on with it. How many more jobs and busiesses do they wish to see destroyed first, before they bow to the inevitable? It is interesting to see the President of the Commission battling to hold the Euro and ever closer integration together under the EU, whilst France and Germany are musing about creating a new club for a few.
There has to be a plan on how to fight the battle of Italy, if they are serious about keeping their currency and getting it to work. Are they going to get the IMF to advance the large amounts of money Italy will need to pay for her running deficit and refinance her expiring debts? Are they hoping that Germany will relent, and allow the ECB to buy up so many Italian bonds, that the Italian state can still borrow at affordable rates? Are they about to announce major quantitative easing, overcoming all the German fears of inflation and unorthodox monetary actions? How are they going to prevent the bank market freezing up, on fears of more losses on sovereign bonds?
It is all very well for them to encourage changes of government, and hope that people more enthusiastic about complying with the Euro scheme will arrive in power in each problem country. They are still left with the difficulty that their plan may not work. Just cutting spending and trying to squeeze down deficits that way may not succeed. If the banks are broken and cannot increase their lending, and if the southern member states remain uncompetitive with no ability to devalue, the austerity medicine may not cure the patient.
IMF packages normally entail monetary medicine and devaluation as well as spending cuts. The Euro area is trying to do it without important parts of the cure. Why do they think it is going to work?
Meanwhile, new governments have to follow the old remedies. Their task of gaining and keeping consent for these policies is going to prove difficult.