European Debt Crisis

If the eurozone were a barbershop quartet

Christopher Werth Jun 15, 2012
European Debt Crisis

If the eurozone were a barbershop quartet

Christopher Werth Jun 15, 2012

Jeremey Hobson: Well whatever happens in Greece, one solution to the debt crisis you’re likely to hear more about is something called a eurobond.

The idea is that Euro countries could borrow money together, as Christopher Werth reports.

Christopher Werth: When a country sells a bond, it’s borrowing money to fund things like schoolteachers and roads. In Europe, when investors lend money to good ol’ reliable Germany, they’re not worried about getting repaid. On the other hand, with bailouts in Spain, Portugal and Greece, lending money to other eurozone countries is a much riskier bet.

But what if Germany shared that risk and partially backed money lent to other eurozone countries? Then you’d be saying hello to Eurobonds.

Harmonious Rex: Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.

If the eurozone were like this barbershop quartet…

Hal Cohen: We’re Harmonious Rex. I’m Hal Cohen. I sing lead.

Which eurozone country would Cohen be?

Cohen: Oh gosh as lead in the eurozone? I’m thinking I would have to be Germany.

Then you have the bass, the baritone, the tenor.

Cohen: Our tenor is a replacement tenor. So maybe he’s Greece.

The truth is, without Germany as the lead, all those other players would have trouble booking shows and selling tickets. Translate that to Europe, and that’s the position countries like Spain and Italy find themselves in today.

Investors are becoming less interested in hearing them sing solo performances.

Tenor: Every morning, every evening, got Eurobonds!

Of course, they still like to listen to Germany sing.

Lead: Not much money, oh but honey, got Eurobonds!

But when Germany croons alone, Shahin Vallee of the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel says the tune falls flat.

Shain Vallee: In fact, Germany has been benefited greatly from the euro, and therefore benefited greatly from the quartet.

But when the baritone, bass and the tenor can all gather around Germany’s lead, they form a quartet or a Eurobond that’s backed up by the entire eurozone.

Harmonious Rex: Every morning, every evening, got Eurobonds! Not much money, oh but honey, got Eurobonds!

That assures the audience of investors. Troubled eurozone countries can borrow more cheaply, and you get harmony.

Harmonious Rex: Even if we owe the grocer, got Eurobonds! Tax collector’s getting closer, got Eurobonds!

I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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