Planet Money
2:40 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Preparing For A Greek Exit, In 4 Easy Steps

Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 2:22 pm

"Finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro agreed earlier this week on the need to develop national contingency plans in case Greece drops out of the common currency, officials said." - WSJ

This is awkward, because you're really not supposed to talk about this sort of thing out loud. You're supposed to say, as Angela Merkel said again this week, "We want Greece to remain in the eurozone."

But what if? What if you were a eurozone finance minister and your job right now was to protect your financial system in case of a Greek exit?

1. Add up how much money your country's businesses have on the line in Greece.

Not just Greek government bonds, but also stock in Greek companies, loans to Greek businesses and IOUs from Greek importers. Some of these assets would immediately be re-denominated in drachma, which would result in losses.

2. Call your lawyers in London.

Under the recent debt deal, some Greek national debt is now subject to UK law. That means that even if Greece goes back to the drachma, this debt will still be due in euros — and you'll need British lawyers to make sure that you get your money.

3. Get cozy with the European Central Bank.

You will want help from the European Central Bank, especially if you're one of Europe's troubled peripheral countries (Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy).

Here's how you get the ECB on your side: Stand up and make a big speech saying how much you love the austerity program, how you're on target to hit your austerity goals, and how safe your banks are. That should convince the ECB to turn on the faucet and shower your country with easy loans.

If all goes well, that should be enough to keep bank deposits in your country, enable your banks to keep lending money to your government, and keep your economy afloat — for now, anyway.



Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.