There are two schools of thought about how the euro zone should play its negotiations with Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister. One is that other leaders and the European Central Bank should back him into a corner. The other is that they should give the radical left Syriza leader time.
A possible bank run is Greece’s Achilles’ heel.
The country probably won’t be forced out of the euro. But there is a scenario where this could happen. This involves Syriza, the radical-left party, winning the upcoming election and then running out of time before it can perform the policy U-turn necessary to keep its creditors on side. Depositors might then panic.
Greece is undergoing an astonishing financial rebound. Two years ago, the country looked like it was set for a messy default and exit from the euro. Now it is on the verge of returning to the bond market with the issue of 2 billion euros of five-year paper.
Greece’s reform job is not even half finished. The government hasn’t done enough to root out the vested interests that strangle the economy. Nor has it cracked down fully on tax evasion or pushed hard enough to privatise state-owned properties.
The austerity debate misses half the point. It is true that governments, especially in the euro zone, shouldn’t chase an austerity spiral ever downwards. But they can’t just sit on their hands. They must drive even harder for structural reforms.