The Guardian is today reporting that, after weeks of crisis, the Eurozone has agreed to what appears to be a multibillion-euro assistance package for Greece that will be finalized on Monday. Member states have apparently agreed on “coordinated bilateral contributions” in the form of loans or loan guarantees to Greece, but only if Athens finds that it is unable to refinance its soaring debt and asks for help. Other sources said the aid could total €25bn (£22.6bn) to meet funding needs estimated in European capitals that Greece could need up to €55bn by the end of this year.
Once again, however, since funding is a function of interest rates, this proposal has the appearance of a very “clever bluff”. It says nothing about how high interest rates for Greece would have to go before the Greek government is somehow declared unable to refinance, and asks for additional help. The member nations probably structured the loan package and terms this way hoping to try to draw in lenders who would rely on this member nation as a back stop when making their investment decisions. However, if this ploy fails, Greek rates will go sky high in an attempt to refinance, and as Greece asks for more help, the spike in rates will make it all the more difficult for the entire Eurozone monetary system to function. Additionally, the prerequisite austerity measures will subtract aggregate demand in Greece and the rest of the Eurozone, and, to some extent, the rest of the world as well.
I have a very different proposal. It is designed to be fair to all, and not a relief package for any one member nation. It is also designed to not add nor subtract from aggregate demand, and also provide an effective enforcement tool for any measures the Eurozone wishes to introduce.
My proposal is for the ECB to distribute 1 trillion euro annually to the national governments on a per capita basis. The per capita criteria means that it is neither a targeted bailout nor a reward for bad behavior. This distribution would immediately adjust national government debt ratios downward which eases credit fears without triggering additional national government spending. This serves to dramatically ease credit tensions and thereby foster normal functioning of the credit markets for the national government debt issues.
The 1 trillion euro distribution would not add to aggregate demand or inflation, as member nation spending and tax policy are in any case restricted by the Maastricht criteria. Furthermore, making this distribution an annual event greatly enhances enforcement of EU rules, as the penalty for non compliance can be the withholding of annual payments. This is vastly more effective than the current arrangement of fines and penalties for non compliance, which have proven themselves unenforceable as a practical matter.
There are no operational obstacles to the crediting of the accounts of the national governments by the ECB. What would likely be required is approval by the finance ministers. I see no reason why any would object, as this proposal serves to both reduce national debt levels of all member nations and at the same time tighten the control of the European Union over national government finances.