Benn Steil


A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


A Full Greek IMF-Debt Default Would Be Four Times All Previous Defaults Combined

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
June 24, 2015


Since the IMF’s launch in 1946, 27 countries have had overdue financial obligations of 6 months or more.*  But the amounts involved have always been small, never exceeding SDR 1bn ($1.4bn).

This could all change dramatically with Greece, which will default on the SDR 1.2bn ($1.7bn) it owes the Fund next week unless its troika creditors agree to extend further financial assistance before then.  Greece owes the IMF SDR 4.4bn ($6.2bn) through the end of this year and SDR 18.5bn ($26bn) over the coming ten years.  As shown in the graphic above, this is nearly four times the cumulative total of overdue funds in the IMF’s history.

Although Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has blasted the Fund for “pillaging” Greece, the conditions it has imposed on the country have been mild by historical standards – particularly considering the size of the loans involved.  Non-payment by a European state will surely undermine the IMF’s credibility in the eyes of developing countries, and likely accelerate efforts to build alternative institutions.

Next up: Ukraine . . .

* “Defaults” in the post title are defined as financial obligations overdue by six months of more, or what the IMF refers to as “protracted arrears.”


Follow Benn on Twitter: @BennSteil
Follow Geo-Graphics on Twitter: @CFR_GeoGraphics

Read about Benn’s latest award-winning book, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order, which the Financial Times has called “a triumph of economic and diplomatic history.”

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Giovanni

    SDR18.5 bn is not such a big amount extended in a ten year period for a EUR170 bn economy but Greece expect from the European countries to be more flexible….

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required