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If you thought Greece was a Eurozone headache…keep a look out for France

Greece’s net government liabilities are rapidly approaching 1000%. France net government liabilities have now passed over 500%.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Now that even the IMF has admitted Greece has an unsustainable debt problem with a debt-to-GDP ratio which will soon cross 200% after its third bailout (even if it leaves open the question what the IMF thinks about Japan’s debt “sustainability”) we wonder what the IMF thinks when looking at Greece’s net government liabilities, which as SocGen’s Albert Edwards reminds us are rapidly approaching 1000%.

Which incidentally means that Greece is only marginally better than the USA, whose comparable net liability is a little over 500%, while its other nearest comparable is none other than France, whose next president may will be “Madame Frexit” and whose biggest headache will be how to resolve government promises to creditors and retirees that are five times greater than the country’s GDP.

edwards debt_0

Still, surely those “in control” are fully aware of all this, and are taking measures to contain it once the Greek debt fiasco spills over beyond Greek borders and returns to the European periphery or, worse, slips into the most unstable core nation of all: France.

Here are Albert Edwards thoughts on how this particular crisis would play out, considering it was none other than France that did not push for a bigger debt haircut for Greece:

I was not in any way surprised that Germany was able to gather a huge number of allies to its camp, with its traditional fiscally conservatively minded allies such as Finland, Holland and Austria, as well as many central European governments. I was not even surprised that other countries previously crushed by austerity, Spain, Ireland etc., were firmly in the Germany camp too. But I was really surprised that French authorities did not stand up to say what was happening was unacceptable, unsustainable, and indeed unfair, and that they would have no part of it.

France instead facilitated a resolution of the impasse, acting as ‘good cop’ to Germany’s ‘bad cop’ routine and helping the Greeks to draft their proposals. The Wall Street Journal quotes one German official “The French smoothed the way so that the Greeks could walk, and then we pushed a bit.” Many critics of the deal would instead say the Greeks have indeed been walked to the edge – the edge of a cliff – and then pushed a bit.

The reason why I am surprised that France went along with this extreme and humiliating austerity programme – and the effective removal of sovereignty forced on Greece – is simply its own self-interest, for France could itself end up in the firing line. The problem France will surely find further down the road is that its own debt dynamics and sustainability is also highly questionable. Estimates we have used before with calculations for the present value of unfunded liabilities (as a % of GDP) show that actually it is not Spain or Italy that have the worst long-term debt sustainability issues; it is the US and France, and  then next in line, surprisingly, Germany (see chart below).

Although on a much smaller scale to the problems faced by Greece, unfunded government liabilities elsewhere are still a genuine problem. We are not talking here about the on-balance sheet government debt to income ratios – although on that  basis Italy’s situation looks dire. But dire though Italy’s situation is, once you add in the off-balance sheet liabilities, which are only now coming onto the balance sheet as populations rapidly age, it is even worse for the US, France, Germany and the UK, in that order.

A combination of inflation, defaulting on pension and medical promises, and severe fiscal retrenchment is the likely response. But, for the US and the UK, we have had a glimpse of where this will end – QE, devaluation and the printing press. Within the  eurozone, the vision of austerity as a remedy to fiscal excess, as shown in the Greek settlement, shows that austerity and ‘reform’ will be the likely route imposed from above. Germany has huge overseas assets accumulated via persistently large current account surpluses to call on to pay its unfunded bills. Germany had net overseas assets of around 50% of GDP last time I looked, whereas France does not have this huge well of assets, and indeed is a net debtor by around 20% of GDP. Hence it was France’s own perilous fiscal situation that left me most surprised that they did not make a strong stand that the Greek ‘agreement’ was wholly unacceptable.

We disagree, and find it far less surprising: ultimately Hollande’s sole focus was to preserve near-term stability (and his job) at any cost, if only until the 2017 French elections, which he is guaranteed to lose. Even if the French fiscal and solvency situation deteriorates dramatically over the next two years (and it will because as we showed in June, France has now had 80 consecutive months of record unemployment as a result of yet another socialist economic failure), by the time the world wakes up it will be someone else’s problem, most likely that of Marine Le Pen, at which point the only way to resolve the French “problem” will by through the printing of French Francs (something Greece will likely have been doing for a while using its own currency the Drachma following its own inevitable exit from the European monetary prison).

Because one look at the chart above and everything should be clear: there may be stability now, but once the current generation of workers retires and realizes its entitlements and retirement benefits were a big fat lie, it will have two choices: violence or printing. We tend to think it will choose the latter.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-07-17/when-it-comes-total-debt-greece-not-much-worse-france-or-usa

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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