Robert Kahn

Macro and Markets

Robert Kahn analyzes economic policies for an integrated world.

A New Greek Proposal? (updated)

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, June 30, 2015
A New Greek Proposal? The head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, convened a meeting of eurozone finance ministers to discuss Greece’s third bailout requests on June 30, 2015. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

There are reports this morning that the Greek government has made a new proposal (PDF) to break the deadlock, involving a two-year bailout program to be funded from European facilities (e.g., ESM) and with explicit debt relief, but without the IMF financial involvement. Eurozone finance ministers will review the proposal in a call tonight.

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Greece: Game Over?

by Robert Kahn Sunday, June 28, 2015
People line up to withdraw cash in Athens on June 28, 2015. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters) People line up to withdraw cash in Athens on June 28, 2015. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

This is how Grexit happens. Following the collapse of negotiations between Greece and its creditors, the European Central Bank (ECB) has halted emergency liquidity assistance. Facing an intensified bank run, the Greek government on Sunday introduced banking controls and declared a bank holiday. With substantial wage and benefit payments due this week and local banks out of cash, economic conditions are likely to deteriorate quickly in Greece ahead of a planned referendum for July 5 asking Greek voters whether the government should accept a creditor-backed reform plan.

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A Roadmap for Ukraine

by Jennifer M. Harris and Robert Kahn Sunday, June 28, 2015

U.S. and European efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis seem to be finding their stride in recent days. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ended months of “will they won’t they?” by announcing earlier this week that the U.S. would be sending heavy weaponry into Eastern Europe, and late last week EU leaders declared that EU sanctions against Russia would remain in place through the end of 2016, quelling months of anxiety around whether EU resolve on sanctions would hold.

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Déjà vu in Greece

by Robert Kahn Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Here we go again. The counterproposal from Greece’s creditors has been leaked, and it underscores how far apart the two sides remain on a range of issues: VAT, corporate taxes, and especially pensions. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been called to Brussels to join European finance ministers in a marathon push today to negotiate a compromise that will release critically needed funding. We heard reports today of Greek backtracking, of the IMF’s deep resistance to the Greek proposals, and the prime minister’s questioning of his creditors’ motives. This is a dynamic we have become all too familiar with. It doesn’t preclude a deal, but it makes it harder to get to “yes” and contributes to short-term, kick-the-can solutions.

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Greece: Still No Deal

by Robert Kahn Monday, June 22, 2015
Greece: Still No Deal Critical decisions will likely have to wait for the next finance ministers’ gathering. (Paul Hanna/Reuters)

European finance ministers met earlier today and afterwards stated that new proposals from the Greek government were “broadly comprehensive” and “a solid basis” for restarting talks, but made clear that the Greek plan was far from complete and received too late for a deal to be concluded today. Markets had rallied earlier on hopes of a deal. But they fell back on comments from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble and others who saw little new in the Greek proposal, suggesting significant splits among creditors. Leaders meet this evening, but it now appears that critical decisions will wait for the next finance ministers’ gathering, likely Thursday. Separately, the European Central Bank’s (ECB) board again expanded emergency assistance by 2 billion euros to Greek banks after weekend ATM withdrawals and orders for today reportedly exceeded 1.4 billion euros. With today’s modestly constructive statements though, it will be difficult for the ECB to cut off access to Greek banks over the next few days even in the face of broad insolvency in the Greek financial system.

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Greece’s Bridge to Nowhere

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Greece's Bridge to Nowhere Last week, Greece delayed a $338 million payment to the IMF as negotiations stalled. (Grigoris Siamidis/Reuters)

Negotiations continue today between Greece and its creditors, with reports that the government has presented a revised proposal that offers minor concessions in an effort to break the deadlock. A deal is needed in the next week if a package of assistance is to be put in place before end-month payments of $1.7 billion are due to the IMF. While this is not a hard deadline—a short-term default to the IMF need not sink the Greek economy—the government is out of cash and it is hard to imagine how they make critical domestic payments without an injection of cash from creditors.

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Greece—a Destabilizing Financial Squeeze

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Technical talks between Greece and the Troika concluded today without a deal, another setback for Greece as domestic financial stress mounts.  Robin Brooks at Goldman-Sachs makes the important point—financial conditions have tightened sharply, and will have adverse and destabilizing effects on growth regardless of whether there is a deal next week between Greece and its European creditors on a reform package.  Household deposits in Greece (red line in the left chart) and deposits in non-financial corporations (right chart) have fallen sharply, causing a destructive tightening in financial conditions at a time when banks are already in trouble and constricting credit. (Anecdotal evidence suggests this trend is continuing, with additional outflows from Greek banks in March.) At the same time, a severe squeeze on fiscal resources is forcing the government to make tough decisions about who to pay and who not to pay—which I have called “the politics of arrears”.

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Greece and the Politics of Arrears

by Robert Kahn Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Merkel-Tsipras German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras review an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on March 23, 2015. (Pawel Kopczynski/Courtesy Reuters)

Greece is running out of money. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s meeting this week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken some of the toxicity out of the conversation for now, but cannot mask Greece’s current collision course with its creditors. Committed to a platform on which it was elected but that it cannot pay for, and with additional EU/ECB financing conditioned on reform, the Greek government is likely to run out of money in April (if not before). If past emerging market crises are any guide, the decisions that it will then confront about who to pay and who not to—the politics of arrears—will present a critical challenge to the government and likely define the future path of the crisis.

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