Paul Lachine

Europe’s Inevitable Haircut

The eurozone's crisis countries - Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Greece - have no currency to devalue to regain competitiveness, so they must devalue internally, through painful wage and budget cuts. But internal devaluation can work only if the value of debts, where it already represents a heavy burden, is reduced.

BERKELEY – What once could be dismissed as simply a Greek crisis, or simply a Greek and Irish crisis, is now clearly a eurozone crisis. Resolving that crisis is both easier and more difficult than is commonly supposed.

The economics is really quite simple. Greece has a budget problem. Ireland has a banking problem. Portugal has a private-debt problem. Spain has a combination of all three. But, while the specifics differ, the implications are the same: all must now endure excruciatingly painful spending cuts.

The standard way to buffer the effects of austerity is to marry domestic cuts to devaluation of the currency. Devaluation renders exports more competitive, thus substituting external demand for the domestic demand that is being compressed.

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