Greek crisis: never mind the drachma - look out for our banks
To return to my refrain, pretty much monthly, since the financial collapse started: the issue is not currency (neither the Euro nor the Drachma); the issue is not deficits. The issue is banking - and bankers.
When the Greeks leave the Euro, clearly the Greek economy will, short term, absolutely tank. Import costs will rocket and so will the prices of basic commodities to the poor ordinary Greeks. Internally held Euros stuffed in biscuit tins and mattresses may help to cushion the immediate blow, and the drachma will float freely massively up and down making everyday life very difficult.
There will be real hardship for ordinary people and businesses who did nothing to cause this impending poverty crisis on our own European doorsteps.
But once the drachma settles down on the currency markets and stringent exchange controls operate (and other old fashioned levers get pulled) then the Greek economy will start to sell things to itself, localise its economy initially; and then eventually its exports will become attractive to all of us.
Never mind the cheapest winter and summer sun holidays available for decades for us poor, benighted, north Europeans!
Contrary to what many economic commentators and bankers suggest of feckless Greeks, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures showed this year that in terms of hours worked, the Greeks are the hardest working in the EU and amongst the hardest working in the world. Even the Germans take more holiday, sickness leave and maternity leave - on average four weeks more - than the Greeks.
Let us remind ourselves that the 'bank' most to blame for the Greek mess and ultimately the collapse of the Euro is Goldman Sachs. And the banking product most to blame was their big derivative bet - the Credit Default Swap. The markets believed one of their own.
The Greek economy was oversold and the Greek government creatively accounted their deficits way into the future - turning current pressing liabilities, already past due, into future long-term possible contingencies. With a little help from their Goldman Sachs friends' financial engineering of currency and sovereign default swaps.
This became self-fulfilling and even more sovereign debt piled up on the false sell, and even more money (debts) piled into Greek banks. The Maastricht rules were circumvented by default swaps: arranged, most commentators report, by Goldman Sachs.
At least this sort of thing isn't happening today!
Apart from the fact that it is. Big banking behemoth, JPMorgan, lost $2billion in just 6 weeks on very complex derivatives in March/April this year. And where did this happen? London!
Will we ever learn?
The collapse of the Greek economy and then the Euro is usually explained as important to us because of our trading relationship with the Eurozone. Businesses will suffer directly.
And as I pointed out last month, it is to Ireland that we have some of our most important and significant trading links.
The collapse of Greece will lead in turn to Euro exits and economic turmoil in Portugal, Spain and Ireland (probably in that order) and possibly thereafter to Italy.
I'm afraid the real problem for us is not our trading, business relationship with a disintegrating Eurozone. It is, instead, our banks' relationship with the banks in the exiting countries and beyond.
Once Greece goes all bets are off as to the stability of UK banks suddenly at massive risk to Eurobank debt pretty much all over the place. And nobody really knows where that will end. They really don't.
To repeat once more what Sir Mervyn King said in February when asked about a Greek Euro exit: "I don't think anyone could be fully prepared for what will be the unforeseeable consequences if such an event were to occur..."
To paraphrase Bill Clinton: "It's about the Bank debt, stupid!"