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Economic Consequences of a "Grexit"
Given current economic conditions, austerity related protests in Europe will likely continue for at least the next few years, the severity of which depend on whether Greece remains in the Eurozone. The 17 June election in Greece will help determine which scenario is most likely. The failure of Greek politicians to form a new government following the 6 May elections raises the possibility of a Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone in the near term and deteriorating economic conditions across Europe in the mid-term. The Eurozone can withstand the immediate effects of a “Grexit” but that departure could lead to a credit crunch that could potentially see one or more countries exiting the Eurozone. The crucial factor will be if the newly elected Greek government cooperates with troika leaders to execute a controlled, gradual departure instead of an abrupt refusal to repay its creditors. With proper planning and financial firewalls, Europe would be able to survive a Greek exit; the odds of the Eurozone staying intact in the event of a sudden Greek departure are lower.
The most likely countries to leave the Eurozone after a sudden Greek exit are Italy, Spain, Portugal, or Ireland, which have suffered from high unemployment rates and low growth following the 2008 financial crisis. The departure of any of these countries from the Eurozone, particularly Spain or Italy, could fragment the Eurozone and lead to the dissolution of the common Euro currency in its present form. The fragmentation of the Eurozone in this scenario would in turn cause a period of political uncertainty and economic instability that would likely impact tourism operations across Europe. Disruptions might include large scale protests, labor union strikes, or more severe social unrest. While Greece might rebound more quickly and benefit from a new, devalued currency, the impact on larger Eurozone economies could potentially be more severe.
Parallels and Lessons from the 1999-2002 Argentinean Financial Crisis
It is difficult to compare a financial crisis in two separate economies during two separate time periods, yet there are a number of similarities between the precursors to the Argentinean and Greek recessions. These similarities allow us to consider how severe unrest in Greece might be and how long the country’s economic malaise might last before recovering. The Argentinean crisis stemmed from, among other things, the 1991 decision to support the peso by pegging it to the U.S. dollar. While this decision helped stabilize the local economy, it was undermined by rampant overspending for the rest of the decade. As global economic conditions worsened in the late 1990’s and the Argentinean peso remained pegged to the dollar, Argentina’s currency became overvalued relative to the currencies of other South American nations. The IMF provided Argentina with financial assistance to combat rising unemployment and sluggish growth but demanded austerity measures to rein in public spending.
The Argentinean government implemented several rounds of public sector cuts as its credit rating was downgraded and nationwide strikes gripped the country. The crisis reached a tipping point on 5 December 2001, when the IMF refused to release a $1.3 billion tranche after claiming the Argentinean government had failed to reach its budget deficit targets. By November 2001, Argentineans began withdrawing their money from banks and were only stopped when the Argentinean government imposed banking restrictions known as the “corralito”. These restrictions were designed to prevent further runs on the bank by allowing only small withdrawals, effectively freezing retail bank accounts. Public outrage grew into nationwide protests that quickly turned violent as demonstrators in Buenos Aires and other major cities began targeting the offices of banks and foreign companies. Demonstrations on 19-20 December denigrated into widespread looting, property destruction, and clashes between protesters and security forces. A state of emergency was declared in the capital and other cities as riots intensified and the National Police were deployed to restore order. In the end, 26 people were killed amid widespread clashes in major cities.