In 2010 the IMF lent Euro 30 billion to Greece as part of a much larger package to support the ailing economy. The IMF explained at the time that it had lent 3200% of quota, well over its normal limits for a country in difficulty. It gave Greece “exceptional access to IMF resources”. The IMF cited the need to prevent the crisis spreading to other parts of the EU and to defend the Euro.
It is an extraordinary tale of bad decisions and policy that a first world country with many advantages in the world should end up a pensioner of the IMF, and should need such unusual treatment, getting far more in loans than very poor countries that are more normal recipients of IMF money and policy advice. The IMF recognised that Greece had both a severe fiscal problem (spending too much) and a competitiveness problem (not selling enough abroad to pay the bills). The IMF opined that in the Euro Greece needed to cut wage costs to tackle the latter and needed to cut spending. The IMF did not think a debt write down was needed, as it thought the running deficit was the main issue. It looked forward to a recovery in the Greek economy from 2012, after the cuts had depressed the economy in 2010-11.
In 2012 the IMF decided to lend Greece a new Euro 28bn as part of a replacement loan package. It drew attention this time to a “significant large competitiveness gap” (stronger language than 2010) and to a high level of public debt. This time it agreed with a major write down of privately held Greek public sector debt ( (75% written off) and required cuts in the Minimum wage as part of its measures to improve competitiveness. Once again Greece received special treatment with a large loan. I queried why the IMF would do this for a country which is no longer sovereign in monetary and economic matters, as its status with the Euro prevents a normal IMF recovery package.
So what will the IMF do and say now that Greece once again has asked for help? Why is Greece still locked into a competitiveness problem and a fiscal deficit problem? Why hasn’t the economy grown as the IMF once predicted? Why hasn’t Greece been able to see her way out of the trap the IMF identified in 2010 by following IMF policies?
It looks as if IMF programmes need a state to be able to keep its own banking system liquid by creating money, and need it to be able to devalue as part of the changes to offset the public spending cuts. Greece is unable to do this. It seems that the IMF was dragged into lending to a Eurozone member for political reasons, when it should have stayed out. The IMF would not lend to a UK County or to a state in the USA if they were in need of loans. The IMF would tell that government to seek cash from the domestic authorities. So why then does the IMF lend to Greece, when it is not a sovereign state and needs to look to the rest of the Eurozone and to the ECB for help? How will the IMF now get its money back? When will it explain the failure of its recovery policy for Greece?