Where Greece went wrong

Here is another useful paper on Greek economic history.  Here is one excerpt:

Rather than adopting policies to correct the macroeconomic imbalances of the Greek economy in order to restore macroeconomic stability and growth, the newly elected Socialist government further promoted policies for income redistribution and the expansion of the public sector. These policies reflected two aspects of the political and economic system of that period. First, they reflected the political priorities of the newly elected government, which was elected under a promise to the public for a radical change in the socioeconomic system. The expansion of the welfare state in the late 1970s had increased the public’s appetite for additional state transfers and for further measures to lower the gap between low- and high-income groups in the society. Second, they reflected the lack of any constraint, internal or external, in the conduct of economic policy. The debt-to-GDP ratio in 1981 was only 34.5%, despite the fiscal expansion that took place during that year. The debt-to-GDP ratio was the highest of the previous 30 years, but still at a relatively low level by world standards. Thus, the Greek government did not face any difficulties borrowing from the domestic and international markets in the early 1980s. This allowed the government to continue pursuing its expansionary policies. Moreover, the central bank lacked independence, a factor that Alesina (1988) and Cukierman, et. al., (1992) find to be inversely related to inflation. Even though the Currency Committee was officially abolished in 1982, the government continued to set the broad outlines of monetary and exchange rate policies during the 1980s. This meant that monetary policy was dominated by the need to finance fiscal expansion.

Although I still favor Greece leaving the Eurozone, we should remember they joined the currency union for a plausible reason, namely that their own monetary policy was a disaster in the making.  Here's a very good post on how deeply structural the Greek problems run.  


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