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The IMF’s “Tough Choices” on Greece

The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, recently asked a simple question: “How much of an adjustment has to be made by Greece, how much has to be made by its official creditors?” Unfortunately, his answer betrays a stunning failure to come to terms with the evidence of the last five years.

ATHENS – The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, recently asked a simple and important question: “How much of an adjustment has to be made by Greece, how much has to be made by its official creditors?” But that raises two more questions: How much of an adjustment has Greece already made? And have its creditors given anything at all?

In May 2010, the Greek government agreed to a fiscal adjustment equal to 16% of GDP from 2010 to 2013. As a result, Greece moved from a primary budget deficit (which excludes interest payments on debt) of more than 10% of GDP to a primary balance last year – by far the largest such reversal in post-crisis Europe.

The IMF initially projected that Greece’s real (inflation-adjusted) GDP would contract by around 5% over the 2010-2011 period, stabilize in 2012, and grow thereafter. In fact, real GDP fell 25%, and did not recover. And, because nominal GDP fell in 2014 and continues to fall, the debt/GDP ratio, which was supposed to stabilize three years ago, continues to rise.

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