Greece’s struggle with capital controls

Greek banks are said to keep broad cash controls in place for months until new money arrives there from Europe in hopes of a dramatic restructuring.

In order to rehabilitate the country’s banks, there is a difficult questions pending. The options are for one, the euro zone takes a stake in the lenders requiring all bondholders and big depositors to take a loss or second, the bill for fixing the banks gets thrown on top of Greece’s already towering mountain of debt, according to Financial Express.

The answer to this dilemma Greece wanted to solve within weeks puts their third option for a bailout on hold which might be too late for their timeline. The more time it takes for a solution, the more critical the banks’ condition becomes.

At this time, there is a 420 ($460) weekly limit on cash withdrawals. With this in place, the economy is put in a hard place while borrowers’ ability to repay loans is on hold too.

“The banks are in deep freeze but the economy is getting weaker,” said one official.

The freeze is putting a heavy weight on the rise in loans that are not being repaid. With the freeze being estimated to continue, the country is hoping for the capital controls to loosen up such as the restrictions on foreign transfers by businesses.

“Ultimately, you can only lift the capital controls when the banks are sufficiently capitalized,” said Jens Weidmann, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank.

The debate is closely linked with the turmoil over reforms including Greek sovereignty facing European controls and in consideration of if the country can come back with the rising debts they have now reached to 300 billion euros.

If the debt climbs any higher, with another 35 billion euros or so, being added to it, it would be considered excessive by the International Monetary Fund.

Greek officials are calling for an urgent release of funds for their banks.

“We want, if possible, an initial amount to be ready for the first needs of the banks,” said one official at the Greek finance ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That should be about 10 billion euros.”

“This is not like Cyprus where you can say these are just Russian oligarchs,” said an insolvency lawyer familiar with Greece.

“It’s the very community everyone is hoping will resuscitate Greece, namely the corporates. You’ll end up depriving them of their cash.”

An option brought to the table by euro zone officials is the direct recapitalization of Greece’s banks by the euro zone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“We don’t know yet if the ESM will take direct control,” said one senior Greek banker. “It will be an issue at the negotiations.”


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