Greece's Debt Crisis: Overview, Policy Responses, and Implications
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Over the past decade, Greece borrowed heavily in international capital markets to fund government budget and current account deficits. The reliance on financing from international capital markets left Greece highly vulnerable to shifts in investor confidence. Investors became jittery in October 2009, when the newly-elected Greek government revised the estimate of the government budget deficit for 2009 from 6.7 of GDP to 12.7 of GDP. There are now questions about whether Greece will be able to repay its maturing debt obligations and interest payments, totaling 54 billion 73 billion, in 2010. This report analyses the Greek financial situation and identifies its implications for the United States. The debt crisis has both domestic and international causes. Domestically, analysts point to high government spending, weak revenue collection, and structural rigidities in Greeces economy. Internationally, observers argue that Greeces access to capital at low interest rates after adopting the euro and weak enforcement of European Union EU rules concerning debt ceilings facilitated Greeces ability to accumulate high levels of external debt. During the crisis, the Greek government has sold bonds on international capital markets in order to raise needed funds, although investors have demanded high interest rates to compensate for the perceived risk of these investments. Greeces government has also unveiled, amidst domestic protests, austerity measures aimed at reducing the government deficit below 3 of GDP by 2012. At the end of March 2010, the Eurozone member states, led by Germany and France, announced after much debate that they would provide financial support to Greece if necessary and if accompanied by financial support from the International Monetary Fund IMF. A common method for addressing budget and current account deficits, currency devaluation, is not possible for Greece as long as it uses the euro as its national currency.
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