Making Sense of the Swiss Shock

For years, policymakers have been wondering whether the exit of a small, fiscally weak country like Greece could undermine the euro. Now, policymakers will have to deal with even bigger risks, stemming from the exit of a small, fiscally strong country that is not even a member of the European Union.

PRINCETON – Since the European sovereign-debt crisis erupted in 2009, everyone has wondered what would happen if a country left the eurozone. At first, the debate focused on crisis countries – Greece, or maybe Portugal, Spain, or Italy. Then there was a rather hypothetical discussion of what would happen if strong surplus countries – say, Finland or Germany – left.

Through it all, a consensus emerged that an exit by one country could – like the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 – trigger a wider meltdown. Now, in Switzerland, we have a demonstration of just some of the risks that might emerge were a surplus country to leave the eurozone.

In September 2011, Switzerland pegged its currency to the euro to set a ceiling to the Swiss franc’s rapid appreciation in the wake of the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008. The country thus became a temporary adjunct member of the European monetary union. But, on January 15, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) suddenly and surprisingly abandoned the peg.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/P7O1RXz;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.