Interview With George Soros: 'Greece Can Never Pay Back Its Debt'
Should Greece have a large part of its debt waived? Absolutely, says George Soros, otherwise the country will never recover. The billionaire investor also warns about the rise of extremist parties if Germany does not change its policies towards Europe.
Legendary US investor George Soros has called for comprehensive debt relief for Greece. "Everyone knows that it can never pay back its debt," he said in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. Greece is close to a primary budget surplus after a lot of pain and suffering, says Soros, whose speculation against the pound forced the UK to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has also recently called for a new round of debt relief for his country. "What is important to me is not to procrastinate too much for a solution," he said. But the German government in particular rejects a writedown of Greek government debt. At most, it wants to discuss lower interest rates and longer loan maturities -- measures that many economists do not regard as being sufficient to solve the problems.
In addition, the German head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) permanent bailout fund, Klaus Regling, pointed out that debt write-downs are prohibited under ESM rules. The majority of Greece's debt is now held by public institutions, i.e. the IMF, the ECB and other EU member states. If these debts have to be written off, the cost wil be met by taxypayers.
German Leadership Can Surmount Issues
Soros recognizes this problem: "The official sector cannot write down its debt because that would violate a number of taboos, particularly for the ECB." These issues, however, could be surmounted under German leadership.
And if any country were to recognize how such an approach could work, he argued, it was Germany, which "ought to remember that it has benefited from debt writedowns three times, with the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan and in connection with the Marshall Plan."
On the other hand, French insistence on war reparation payments after World War I led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis: "The Golden Dawn in Greece is a similar development."
"Many nations have lived through nightmares and survived. However, the European Union is not a nation; it is an incomplete association of sovereign states that will not survive a decade or more of stagnation. That is not in Germany's interest. It would leave Europe worse off than it was when it embarked on the European Union."
Soros, who with an estimated fortune of $20 billion (14.7 billion) is one of the world's richest people, is rather more optimistic about the current political crisis in Washington. "The government shutdown and the threat of default is an elaborate political theater but markets can anticipate the outcome: no default and a defeat for extremists in the Republican party. That said, changes in US monetary policy have far-reaching effects on the developing world."
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