Greek talks focus on private debt, second bailout
Negotiations with the EU and the IMF on a critical new bailout for Greece are 'on a knife edge,' Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters this weekend.
David Brancaccio: The U.S. economic recovery is a fragile, green bud. But one thing that economists say could kill it is the European debt crisis taking a bad turn. Today, Greece is hard against a new deadline. This is about averting a mess known as a "disorderly default." Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us live from London. Hello Stephen.
Stephen Beard: Hello David.
Brancaccio: So what specifically are they talking about? Remind us about these talks.
Beard: Okay. Well, there are two sets of talks. On one hand the Greeks are trying to persuade their private sector creditors to write off at least half what they owe. These talks, we're told, are going well.
But they're linked to seperate talks between Greece and the IMF and the EU over a second bailout. Now, if the Greeks don't get that second bailout all bets are off. The Greeks could slide into a very messy disorderly default with potentially horrible consequences for global markets. And those bailout talks are going badly.
Brancaccio: So Stephen, give me a sense of some of the sticking points here.
Beard: Okay, the IMF and the Europeans are demanding much more austerity, and that's the problem. A 20 percent cut in the minimum wage. A 15 percent cut in some pensions. The Greek unions are up in arms and one Greek party leader said "Greece will explode. Europe will burn."
However, Michael Arghyrou of the Cardiff Business School says things are getting a little over heated. He thinks the Greek people would be prepared to bite this bullet.
Arghyrou: The silent majority of the Greek population really want the Greek economy to be put back on its feet. And I think that if the plans presented to them in a coherent way, they will support and they will accept it.
Beard: But the Greeks are running out of time, they need that bailout by March 20.
Brancaccio: March 20, that's an eternity. Why is this so pressing right now, Stephen?
Beard: Well, this is more urgent than it sounds. Because we're told that it will take about a month to legislate changes like a cut in the minimum wage, so the Greeks are already close to the wire.
Brancaccio: All right, Marketplace's Stephen Beard live from London. Thank you sir.
Beard: Okay, David.