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The Pitfalls of External Dependence: Greece, 1829-2015

Reinhart M., Carmen, Trebesch, Christoph,  (2015), “The pitfalls of external dependence: Greece, 1829-2015”, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Σεπτέμβριος.

Two centuries of Greek debt crises highlight the pitfalls of relying on external financing. Since its independence in 1829, the Greek government has defaulted four times on its external creditors, and it was bailed out in each crisis. We show that cycles of external crises and dependence are a perennial theme of Greek modern history – with repeating patterns: prior to the default, there is a period of heavy borrowing from foreign private creditors. As repayment difficulties arise, foreign governments step in, help to repay the private creditors, and demand budget cuts and adjustment programs as a condition for the official bailout loans. Political interference from abroad mounts and a prolonged episode of debt overhang and financial autarky follows. At present, there is considerable evidence to suggest that a substantial haircut on external debt is needed to restore the economic viability of the country. Even with that, a policy priority for Greece is to reorient, to the extent possible, towards domestic sources of funding.

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