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The Greek Public Debt Problem

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Listed:
  • Michalis Nikiforos
  • Dimitri B. Papadimitriou
  • Gennaro Zezza

Abstract

The Greek economic crisis started as a public debt crisis five years ago. However, despite austerity and a bold "haircut," public debt is now around 175 percent of Greek GDP. In this policy note, we argue that Greece's public debt is clearly unsustainable, and that a significant restructuring of this debt is needed in order for the Greek economy to start growing again. Insistence on maintaining the current policy stance is not justifiable on either pragmatic or moral grounds. The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful insights for the way forward. In the aftermath of the war, there was a sweeping cancellation of the country's public and foreign debt, which was part of a wider plan for the economic and political reconstruction of Germany and Europe. Seven decades later, while a solution to the unsustainability of the Greek public debt is a necessary condition for resolving the Greek and European crisis, it is not, in itself, sufficient. As the postwar experience shows, a broader agenda that deals with both Greece's domestic economic malaise and the structural imbalances in the eurozone is also of vital importance.

Suggested Citation

  • Michalis Nikiforos & Dimitri B. Papadimitriou & Gennaro Zezza, 2015. "The Greek Public Debt Problem," Economics Policy Note Archive 15-2, Levy Economics Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:lev:levypn:15-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michaelis Nikiforos & Laura Carvalho & Christian Schoder, 2014. ""Twin deficits" in Greece in search of causality," IMK Working Paper 143-2014, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    2. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
    3. Ardagna, Silvia, 2004. "Fiscal Stabilizations: When Do They Work and Why," Scholarly Articles 2580047, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    4. Jeromin Zettelmeyer & Christoph Trebesch & Mitu Gulati, 2013. "The Greek debt restructuring: an autopsy," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 28(75), pages 513-563, July.
    5. International Monetary Fund, 2010. "Greece; Staff Report on Request for Stand-By Arrangement," IMF Staff Country Reports 10/110, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Ardagna, Silvia, 2004. "Fiscal stabilizations: When do they work and why," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(5), pages 1047-1074, October.
    7. Timothy W. Guinnane, 2004. "Financial Vergangenheitsbewältigung: The 1953 London Debt Agreement," Working Papers 880, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    8. Dimitri B. Papadimitriou & Michalis Nikiforos & Gennaro Zezza, 2013. "The Greek Economic Crisis and the Experience of Austerity: A Strategic Analysis," Economics Strategic Analysis Archive sa_jul_13, Levy Economics Institute.
    9. Dimitri B. Papadimitriou & L. Randall Wray & Yeva Nersisyan, 2010. "Endgame for the Euro? Without Major Restructuring, the Eurozone is Doomed," Economics Public Policy Brief Archive ppb_113, Levy Economics Institute.
    10. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-491, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:taf:fosoec:v:46:y:2017:i:3:p:311-314 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Dimitri B. Papadimitriou & Michalis Nikiforos & Gennaro Zezza, 2016. "Greece: Getting Out of the Recession," Economics Strategic Analysis Archive sa_gr_9_16, Levy Economics Institute.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N94 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: 1913-

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