Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, knows this very well. As the Greek government’s anointed “heavy,” he is working Plan B (a potential exit from the eurozone), while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras makes himself available for Plan A (an extension on Greece’s loan agreement, and a renegotiation of the terms of its bailout). In a sense, they are playing the classic game of “good cop/bad cop” – and, so far, to great effect. (...)
Algo que eu tinha pensando, quando começaram a surgir aquelas notícias a falar do levantamento de dinheiro dos bancos gregos (normalmente apresentadas em tons de "a coisa está a ficar preta para o governo grego"), era que, enquanto o BCE continuar a financiar os bancos gregos, esses levantamentos são positivos - isto é, quanto menos dinheiro estiver depositado nos bancos gregos no dia em que o BCE cortar o financiamento, menor serão os problemas de liquidez que o fim do apoio do BCE vai causar (um exemplo extremo - se TODOS os depósitos em bancos gregos fossem levantados, o BCE poderia cortar a linha de crédito à vontade que já não vinha nenhum problema daí: afinal, já não havia necessidade de garantir depósitos).Second, the Greek government is driving up the costs of Plan B for the other side, by allowing capital flight by its citizens. If it so chose, the government could contain this trend with a more conciliatory approach, or stop it outright with the introduction of capital controls. But doing so would weaken its negotiating position, and that is not an option.Capital flight does not mean that capital is moving abroad in net terms, but rather that private capital is being turned into public capital. Basically, Greek citizens take out loans from local banks, funded largely by the Greek central bank, which acquires funds through the European Central Bank’s emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) scheme. They then transfer the money to other countries to purchase foreign assets (or redeem their debts), draining liquidity from their country’s banks.Other eurozone central banks are thus forced to create new money to fulfill the payment orders for the Greek citizens, effectively giving the Greek central bank an overdraft credit, as measured by the so-called TARGET liabilities. In January and February, Greece’s TARGET debts increased by almost €1 billion ($1.1 billion) per day, owing to capital flight by Greek citizens and foreign investors. At the end of April, those debts amounted to €99 billion.A Greek exit would not damage the accounts that its citizens have set up in other eurozone countries – let alone cause Greeks to lose the assets they have purchased with those accounts. But it would leave those countries’ central banks stuck with Greek citizens’ euro-denominated TARGET claims vis-à-vis Greece’s central bank, which would have assets denominated only in a restored drachma. Given the new currency’s inevitable devaluation, together with the fact that the Greek government does not have to backstop its central bank’s debt, a default depriving the other central banks of their claims would be all but certain.A similar situation arises when Greek citizens withdraw cash from their accounts and hoard it in suitcases or take it abroad. If Greece abandoned the euro, a substantial share of these funds – which totaled €43 billion at the end of April – would flow into the rest of the eurozone, both to purchase goods and assets and to pay off debts, resulting in a net loss for the monetary union’s remaining members.All of this strengthens the Greek government’s negotiating position considerably. Small wonder, then, that Varoufakis and Tsipras are playing for time, refusing to submit a list of meaningful reform proposals.The ECB bears considerable responsibility for this situation. By failing to produce the two-thirds majority in the ECB Council needed to limit the Greek central bank’s self-serving strategy, it has allowed the creation of more than €80 billion in emergency liquidity, which exceeds the Greek central bank’s €41 billion in recoverable assets. With Greece’s banks guaranteed the needed funds, the government has been spared from having to introduce capital controls.