Remember the proverbial run on the bank? Well, that was the norm (or rather the outlier) before governments decided to backstop entire financial industries residing within their territory. As a result, the post-Lehman version of "the bank run" will henceforth be referred to as "the country run" and for an example of one in practice, look no further than Greece. The Guardian reports that investors have pulled a stunning €8-10 billion since the Greek crisis commenced in earnest last November. If true, this is the beginning of the end for the troubled EMU-member country.
"In the last four to six weeks a lot of money has been moved abroad; I've heard extraordinary figures," analyst, Kostas Panagopoulos said.
"People are moving funds either because they don't trust our banking system, want to avoid what they fear will be taxes on deposits or are simply anxious about the future of our economy."
What is ironic is the previously discussed pervasive tax fraud in the country where very few resident actually declare their true income. As a result the implication of these sudden withdrawals on the country banking system is likely exponentially magnified:
While a fifth of the population lives beneath the poverty line, some 20% of Greeks are believed to earn more than €100,000 annually – even if, according to income tax records, 90% declare salaries of less than €30,000 a year.
"Greece has a lot of rich people who are not being taxed properly because there is so much tax evasion," finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, told the Observer. "If you look at the actual numbers, you will see that the number of people declaring over €100,000 a year is roughly 15,000," he said. "I don't think that there is anyone in this country who believes there are only 15,000 Greeks earning more than €100,000 a year."
And as if the Greek population needed any more reasons to deteset the current economic fiasco, and to draw even more distinct lines of social separation:
The growing flight of funds from Greece has whipped up much resentment among the public. "It's revolting," said one popular radio chat-show host last week. "After pillaging the country, they flee with their ill-gotten gains at the very mention of the word tax."
If you will recall a mere 15 months back, the one factor that truuly excerbated the pre and post-Lehman fiasco, both domestically and globally, was investors' loss of conifdence in the system: first in the deposit custodians and then in money markets themselves. As the financial system is never, by definition, prepared for massive fund flows in the outward bound direction, this is the greatest nightmare of any regulator or any central bank. If indeed the money rush out of Greece has commenced, then it is too late to save the country, no matter what Papandreou or Almunia will say: the only voice that matters is that of the depositor, and what is being said is the polar opposite of the claims of those who continue lying and telling us that everything is fine.
Putting the €10 billion number in perspective: Greece is facing roughly €8 billion in near-term maturities in April and May each. This is Greece, not America, and €10 billion is still a massive number. The latest miraculous Greek bond issue, which was supposed to sound the "all clear" call, was for €8 billion. Investors in that particular GGB are already underwater.