Relief map for Greek debt? Not without a fight or two

Wed May 3, 2017 3:49am EDT
 
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(Clarifies in last paragraphs debt mountain is relative to GDP)

By Jeremy Gaunt

ATHENS (Reuters) - Pretty much everyone agrees that Greece needs debt relief; what they don't agree on is what debt relief means.

Easing Greece's fiscal path forward is likely to be the next great struggle in the country's agonizing, seven-year, three-package bankruptcy saga now that a bailout pact has opened the door a crack to discussions on relief.

Only this time it will not just pit Greece against its lenders, but lender against lender as well.

Start with the numbers: At the last count, the Greek government owed 314 billion euros ($343 billion) despite writing off about 100 billion euros owed to private bondholders in 2012.

That's more than the gross domestic product of South Africa.

It's also equivalent to around 179 percent of GDP, a ratio which despite improvements in Greece's economic performance goes up every time lenders make a bailout payment to Athens.

This is why debt relief is on the agenda -- with Greece perhaps quixotically pushing for something as early as May 22, when the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers meets to sign off on Tuesday's staff-level pact on support for Athens.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO: A street performer plays with a ball at the Constitution (Syntagma) square near the Parliament building in Athens, Greece July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun /File Photo