Now that the Greek tragicomedy of the new government "threatening" to leave the Eurozone if it doesn't get its way, has been postponed for a few weeks, if not months, we can go back to the biggest story involving Greece, one we first covered in October of 2014, when we said that Greece needs about €43 billion through the end of 2015 to cover its funding needs. Earlier today, the broader market finally woke up to precisely this problem for Greece, when MarketNews reported that Greek creditors are now contemplating a third bailout which could be as large as €30 billion.
Of course, the only "use of proceeds" of this bailout would be to cover prior financing obligations: maturities and interest on pre-existing debt. None would actually go to the Greeks themselves; however a third bailout would certainly come with even more draconian conditions and terms that would make the current Greek "austerity" measures seem like a walk in the park.
So now that the Greek topic is back to overall debt sustainability, a few hours ago Greece Kathimerini reported that the Euro Working Group "discussed Greece’s imminent funding problems on Thursday amid mounting concern about how the country will meet its obligations next months."
This follows a suggestion earlier in the day by the Greek Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris that "Greece might delay payment to the International Monetary Fund if it cannot find the necessary money."
According to Kathimerini calculations, Greece is due to pay the IMF 1.6 billion euros next month but Flambouraris said that Athens might ask to delay this payment for two months. "Greece has a total of 7.27 billion euros in obligations next month of which 4.6 billion euros is in treasury bills that are due to be rolled over. The government’s first T-bill issue will have to take place by Thursday as 1.6 billion euros has to be rolled over the next day."
One possible solution is for the Troika, pardon, Institutions to raise the €15 billion limit on T-bill issues, a request which however the ECB has so far rejected.
But wait, how does a country "delay" a payment on a debt obligation, especially when it is due to the very IMF that has over the past year refused to even consider lending Greece any more money (apparently all of its spare cash goes to Kiev these days)?
Well, it doesn't. Back to Kathimerini which reports that "the possibility of Greece postponing the repayment of any debt tranches to the International Monetary Fund is seen as “exceptionally complicated” with “many obstacles,” according to officials familiar with the subject. They stress that such a move would constitute a “clear default,” with consequences for a large number of other loans Greece has received."
A delayed IMF loan repayment would generate multiple consequences, which market professionals estimate would have a negative impact on Greece and its economy, as when the Fund lends money to a country it is always the first to be paid back. If a country forfeits a repayment, this is considered a credit event, or default.
Wait, so, after all the drama of the past month, and all the posturing by the once-proud new Syriza government whose spine, leverage and confidence have since been crushed, Greece may actually have no money to pay the IMF with? Well, yes, because remember: the biggest problem - as explained yesterday - that has always faced Greece, is not its massive debt load, but the reason why Greece accumulated this massive debt load in the first place: its chronic inability to collect taxes!
“Greeks consider taxes as theft,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “Normally taxes are considered the price you have to pay for a just state, but this is not accepted by the Greek mentality.”
And that's the whole problem in a nutshell.
So when is the Greek drama set to make a surprise come back appearance?
Greece is due to pay the IMF 310 million euros on March 6, 350 million on March 13, 580 million on March 16 and another 350 million on March 20.
We suggest readers grab a seat and some popcorn on any of those days, because the inevitable day when Greece finally runs out of not just its own but other people's money, may arrive as recently as one week from today.