Greece will have to bring its current account deficit down to zero at some point.
This can happen in two ways: either Greece exports more or spends less. Adjusting the current account by spending less would require an additional fall in GDP of 25 per cent, given that in Greece only one in four US dollars of spending cuts goes abroad. This is clearly not a pretty picture. But adjusting by raising exports would require they increase by 50 per cent, not an easy feat. Achieving it through tourism alone would require the industry to triple in size – an unlikely prospect.
Here’s the bad news for Greece: in our sample of 128 countries, it had the biggest gap between its current recorded level of income and the knowledge content of its exports. Greece owes its income to borrowed foreign spending it cannot pay back. It produces no machines, no electronics and no chemicals. Of every 10 US dollars of worldwide trade in information technology, it accounts for one cent.
This problem cannot be addressed by fiscal Keynesian stimulus, by bland trade facilitation or by paying lip-service to structural adjustment as the November International Monetary Fund agreement implicitly assumes.