Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.
April 9 has come and grone, yet Greece managed to pay off its €458 million debt to the IMF by scrapping together the bottom-of-the-barrel cash balances of the electricity board, pensions and other government agencies, defying my recent conjecture.
Meanwhile, the groundhog day ritual between Greece and the Eurogroup of finance ministers pondering the release of the remaining €7.2 billion in overdue bailout funds continues. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports in its Saturday edition that (my translation)
The Greeks sent a new representative, the General Secretary of the Finance Ministry Nikos Theocharakis. He reportedly only asked again and again “like a taxi driver” about where they are hiding the money, and claimed that his country was on the verge of bankruptcy. The representatives of the creditors, however, did not share this view. They stated that Athens could still meet its international obligations even if it meant that salaries and pensions could not be fully paid. This would merely be a domestic Greek problem, the paper’s sources reported them as saying.
As anyone who has been to Athens will fondly recall, if anyone can extract billions of Euros from tight-fisted Eurozone finance ministers, it is Greek taxi drivers, who have been known to easily charge four times the regular price on the way in from the airport.
Of course I do not mean to insinuate that Greek Taxi champion Mr. Sachinidis (pictured above) would ever cheat his customers. However, his ability to extract more than five times the expected mileage from his top quality German car (the purchase of which was a major contributor to Greece’s present indebtedness, I should point out) would seem to highly recommend him to the Greek Finance Ministry as a suitable replacement for the hapless Mr. Theocharakis. If the Greeks feel that they now need to haggle like taxi drivers, at least they should send a real one!
While Greece has, to everyone’s surprise, managed to take the April 9 IMF hurdle, its troubles are only beginning, as the chart below makes clear:
Postedit April 17: I have now revised this chart by correcting some errors in the Bloomberg source using IMF data. Bloomberg left out the substantial repayments to the IMF on May 1 and 12, and used an incorrect SDR/€ conversion for the June 12 payment.