Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The eurozone is saving Germany

Over at Business Spectator, Oliver Marc Hartwich has laid out the reasons Germany is so keen to maintain the currency union even though Greece is effectively living on German welfare. A low value euro gives German exporters a massive advantage, probably more benefit than the cost of supporting Greece.

I recommend going over to BS and reading in full, but below is the crux of the article (with my emphasis in bold).

These figures explain why German politicians fear nothing more than a break-up of the eurozone. Apart from the inevitable repercussions for the global financial system, any scenario in which weaker eurozone countries departed from monetary union – let alone a scenario in which Germany itself pulled out – would inevitably have an impact on Germany’s exchange rate. It would appreciate substantially and thus undermine its export-dependent economy upon which much of Germany’s recent economic performance is built. No wonder then that German politicians still prefer to pay for Greece, Portugal and other struggling countries, however grudgingly.

Unfortunately, the current German strategy to keep the eurozone together at all costs is extremely short-sighted. It leaves countries like Greece and Portugal permanently dependent on German transfer payments while burdening German taxpayers with enormous liabilities and risks. All of that for the dubious benefit of prolonging and amplifying existing trade imbalances within Europe.

When I pointed out to the advisor that the German government’s policies effectively turned Greece into one big welfare recipient, the answer I got was little more than a ‘Yes, that’s true, but we can still afford it’.

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