Views on what Greek vote bodes

On Sunday, 61 per cent of Greek voters said "No" to a European proposal for austerity that would impose more spending cuts to get Greece's budget under control.

They supported left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' call to reject such a proposal, believing his promise that a "No" vote would strengthen his hand when he returns to negotiate with the "Troika" for a better deal. The Troika refers to the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that represent international creditors.

One sticking point is debt relief. Greece argues that its huge debt of over €330 billion (S$490 billion) can't be paid, and wants permanent relief, that is, to write off the debt. The Troika wants Greece to agree on tough reforms first before talking about debt relief or forgiveness.

Below are views from observers on what the vote meant and what's next for Greece.

"No" supporters displaying a burnt EU flag in Thessaloniki on Sunday. A sizeable 61 per cent in Greece rejected a European proposal for austerity and more spending cuts to get its budget under control. Some observers believe the "no" vote offers the
"No" supporters displaying a burnt EU flag in Thessaloniki on Sunday. A sizeable 61 per cent in Greece rejected a European proposal for austerity and more spending cuts to get its budget under control. Some observers believe the "no" vote offers the country a chance of escape, but others say it creates unrealistic expectations as Greece does not have the luxury to play "hard ball". PHOTO: REUTERS

What the "no" vote meant

THE GREEKS HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF BLEEDING

"The truth is that Europe's self-styled technocrats are like mediaeval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients - and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding. A 'yes' vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven't worked and, in fact, given the arithmetic, can't work. Austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the 'no' side offers at least a chance for an escape."

PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times

A BARGAINING TOOL

"Tsipras had all along described the referendum as a bargaining tool. The efforts by other European leaders to turn the vote into a referendum on Greece's continued membership in the euro zone backfired horribly, persuading many Greeks that their plucky little country's mighty neighbours were seeking to bully it into submission.

But the vote wasn't just a nationalistic gesture. Having lived through their own Great Depression, most Greeks have had enough of austerity policies, and are demanding an alternative."

JOHN CASSIDY, New Yorker

Does a "no" vote mean Greece wants to exit the euro zone?

"While results indicate that a sizeable 61 per cent rejected existing policies towards the Greek crisis, polls have consistently shown that the majority of Greeks want to remain in the euro zone. This exposes the success of Syriza, based on its populism, which has allowed Greeks to think that they can stay a credible member of the European Union (EU), while at the same time taking unilateral decisions and refusing to recognise the obligations of their euro zone membership.

This not only creates unrealistic expectations but is also a very sad result for the relationship between the EU and its citizens."

GEORGE KYRIS, lecturer in International and European Politics, University of Birmingham, Britain.

What's next?

BANKS MAY RUN OUT OF MONEY

"Time is very short. Greece's economic situation is critical. On July 2, Greek banks reportedly had only €500 million in cash reserves. This buffer is not even 0.5 per cent of the €120 billion deposits that Greek citizens have to their names. It is only capital controls preventing Greek banks from collapsing under the strain of withdrawal.

Basic mathematical calculations reveal how desperate the situation is. There are roughly 9.9 million registered Greek voters. Assume that - irrespective of whether they voted Yes or No - some 2.8 million voters (that is, a very modest 28.2 per cent of registered voters) decided to withdraw their daily limit of €60 from cash machines yesterday morning.

Following this pattern, banks will run out of cash in three days and, therefore, collapse.

There is, therefore, very little time for the Greek government to strike the deal with their creditors that will instantaneously give the ECB the "green light" to inject additional Emergency Liquidity Assistance into Greek banks to support their cash buffer and save them from collapse.

In other words, Greece does not have the luxury of playing "hard ball" with its creditors. An agreement has to be imminent."

COSTAS MILAS, Professor of Finance, University of Liverpool, Britain.

WILL THE TROIKA BLINK?

"Greek banks today are all but out of euros. Normally, in this situation, a nation's central bank simply prints more currency. Greece can't do that, as no one country controls production of the euro.

So the options over the next month or so seem to be that either Germany, France and the European Central Bank blink and extend more credit to Greece, or Greece's financial system will cease functioning and, ultimately, it will be forced to print drachma."

ROSS BUCKLEY, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Australia

Will Greece and the Troika go back to the negotiating table?

"With an emergency summit of all European Union leaders scheduled for today, it seems highly unlikely that the ECB will render these deliberations pointless by immediately torpedoing the Greek financial system.

In all likelihood, there will be at least one more round of talks between the two sides.

Greece's next big payment to its creditors isn't due until July 23. If the banks can somehow be propped up until then, there is time for more deliberation."

JOHN CASSIDY, New Yorker

"The government can now walk into negotiations in a strengthened position. They can honour their promises. They have no intention to leave the euro zone, let alone the EU, but can focus on a debt restructure, tackling tax evasion and modernising the state.

I expect some sort of financial resolution in the next 24-48 hours, because a move back to the drachma would be catastrophic."

NIKOS PAPASTERGIADIS, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, Australia

Is a deal with the Troika still possible?

"The elements of a possible deal aren't hard to draw up on paper. On the taxation and spending side, the proposal that Syriza offered a couple of weeks ago went a good deal of the way towards meeting the creditors' demands.

To be sure, it was a long time coming, and some of its revenue-raising measures, which would have increased taxes on businesses and wealthy people, weren't to the liking of the Troika. But the overall budget targets were close to what the EU had demanded.

With some goodwill and flexibility on both sides, the differences on how to achieve them could be narrowed.

The same is true of the creditors' demand for structural reforms, some of which Syriza has embraced and some of which the Party has resisted.

At this stage, the bigger sticking point is debt relief. Almost all objective analysts reckon that it is necessary. Even the IMF now agrees. Dr Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's finance minister (who quit yesterday), said he wouldn't sign a deal that doesn't address it.

But will the big European countries, especially Germany, even consider it? Or will they continue to insist that Greece has to reach an agreement on everything else first, and that only then can the discussion turn to debt?

If they stick with this line, it is hard to see how a compromise can be reached."

JOHN CASSIDY, New Yorker

CATHARTIC EXIT BEST OPTION

"Rather than come up with some convoluted formula to give Greece enough money to stave off bankruptcy, European leaders should cut their losses and start the process of easing Greece out of the common-currency project.

Greece, for its part, should seize the opportunity to get out of the euro on the best terms possible. Those would include a restructuring of its debts, with creditors taking a one-time hit and reducing the debt burden from about 180 per cent of gross domestic product.

A new and devalued currency could help put the economy back on the path to recovery.

Economists have argued that this is Greece's best alternative."

MARK GILBERT, Bloomberg

THE CONVERSATION WEBSITE, NEW YORKER, NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Views on what Greek vote bodes'. Print Edition | Subscribe