Bailout Will Help Greece Meet Bond Obligations

With every announcement that Europe has finally dealt with its debt crisis there is a sigh of relief — and then reality sets in. There is a lot of skepticism this time because the Greek economy needs to start growing in order for it to make debt payments. And so far all the signs point toward a continuing contraction.

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The conditions are tough and the Greek government does not have a lot of time to achieve them, but Athens will need to find a way in order to unlock another bailout package. This one worth more than $170 billion.

INSKEEP: European officials gave their approval to the next round of rescue money yesterday, for the economy that may be the most inflicted by crisis in Europe. The deal requires more painful austerity measures; layoffs for thousands Greek public workers and a cut to the minimum wage. It also calls for the country to privatize state assets and overhaul its tax system, among other things.

MONTAGNE: The deal will enable Greece to payoff bonds that come due on March 20th. At least for now, that has helped prevent the kind of default that could have caused chaos in the market. But Greece is by no means out of the woods.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Hours after the Greek bailout was announced yesterday, U.S. stocks hit one of those milestones that always generate headlines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly rose above 13,000 for the first time since before the financial crisis.

Jim Paulsen is chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. He says the European debt crisis has gone from a scary quagmire that threatened to drag down the world economy, to a chronic problem that European officials are trying hard to manage.

JIM PAULSEN: All of that, in combination, has done a lot of good for the stock market, in the sense that it has calmed down the imminent anxiety surrounding the European sovereign debt crisis.

ZARROLI: The Greek bailout may be one more step in Europe's long crawl back from the edge of financial oblivion. A few weeks ago, some European leaders were openly contemplating something that was once unthinkable: Greece's departure from the eurozone.

But Sony Kapoor, managing director of the London think-tank Re-Define, says the bailout on Monday may have restored some faith in the euro project.

SONY KAPOOR: It did, at least, highlight that Euro leaders are not willing to let the Euro area break up. And I think that has something going for it.

ZARROLI: But Kapoor also says Europe shouldn't try to declare victory yet. The bailout could still fail in any number of ways, he warned. For one thing, he points out that Greece's economy still has very serious problems. Unemployment is sky high, especially among the young. Kapoor says European officials have consistently underestimated Greece's problems.

KAPOOR: Real growth, given capital flight, given that skilled Greeks are leaving, given the collapse of confidence, and the very sharp cutting back of public expenditure means that growth will almost certainly be worse than has been anticipated.

ZARROLI: Actually, Greece's economy isn't growing at all. It's shrinking, and that's a big problem. The bailout gives Greece much easier terms to pay off its debts. But even those easy terms could be difficult to meet if the economic contracts any more than it already has.

Diego Iscaro, of IHS Global Insight, worries about the weak political support for the bailout which imposes punishing austerity measures on the Greek people.

DIEGO ISCARO: This adjustment which is going through is going to take time. And for that to happen, you need political and social support for austerity and reforms. And this support is unlikely to remain in place if the economy continues to be in the doldrums for a long time.

ZARROLI: Iscaro points that the bailout requires Greece to meet certain budget-cutting targets. And it's already been tough to sell them to the Greek people. If political support for the bailout erodes any further, the government will have trouble meeting those targets and the whole bailout plan could unravel.

ISCARO: If that happens, then what we're doing is just kicking the can down the road. We may have avoided hard default now, but we may actually encounter Greece in the same situations in a couple of months' time.

ZARROLI: In fact, Greece has more bond payments coming due in June. And European leaders could once again be back at the negotiating table this spring. But for now at least, they have managed to avoid what could have been a messy and painful default.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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