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23 Oct 2020

Study on the sovereign debt sustainability in Greece during the economic adjustment programmes: 2010-2018

Cinzia Alcidi / Angela Capolongo / Daniel Gros

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In 2018, Greece exited from eight years of adjustment programmes. Three programmes totalling €288 billion of financial assistance were made available to Greece – the first of the euro area countries to request emergency financial support to avoid default. At the time, no EU mechanism existed to deal with a sovereign debt crisis.

This study presents an assessment of the role of sovereign debt sustainability in the three adjustment programmes for Greece, focusing on five dimensions: i) debt sustainability assessment, ii) debt restructuring, iii) structural reforms, iv) the impact of PSI and v) access to markets.

The three different programmes and their evolution reflect changes in players and the economic-political context. The overarching objective of debt sustainability and market access seems to have been achieved only by the third programme. Official sector investment (OSI) played a key role in this. The assessment of private sector investment (PSI) is mixed: while nominal debt was reduced, debt-to-GDP ratio only fell for one year, and then returned to its previous level. Delays and a lack of reform implementation broadly emerge as major obstacles to the success of the programmes; their impact on sovereign debt sustainability mostly appears to be indirect.

This study was prepared for the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission, by CEPS authors Cinzia Alcidi, Angela Capolongo, and Daniel Gros, in collaboration with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and ECORYS.