“A harder Default To Come”
“We owed it to our children and grandchildren to rid them of the burden of this debt,” said Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos about the bond swap that had just whacked private sector investors with a 72% loss. While everyone other than the bondholders was applauding, the drumbeat of Greece’s economic horror show continued in its relentless manner.
In central Athens, a stunning 29.6% of the businesses ceased operations, up from 24.4% in August; in Piraeus 27.3%, a 10-point jump since March. The whole Attica region lost 25.6% of its businesses. “This worsening of the survival index in the commercial sector … shows that resistance is waning,” said Vasilis Korkidis, president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce. And fourth quarter GDP was revised down to -7.5% on an annual basis. The Greek economy has shrunk about 20% since 2008.
Unemployment is veering toward disaster: 21% in December, announced Thursday, was horrid enough, but youth unemployment rose to a shocking 51.1%, double the rate before the crisis. A record 1,033,507 people were unemployed, up 41% over prior year. Only 3,899,319 people had jobs—a mere 36.1% of a total population of 10.8 million!
No economy can service a gargantuan mountain of debt when only 36.1% of its people contribute (by comparison, the US employment population ratio is 58.6%, down from 64.7% in 2000). Hence, another bout of red ink. The “cash deficit” at the end of 2011 hit €24.9 billion, 11.5% of GDP, far above the general budget deficit. Government-owned enterprises, such as the public healthcare sector, couldn’t pay their bills. Total owed their suppliers: €5.73 billion.