Today the age old: Happy go merry grasshopper & hardworking ant story has a different ending. The grasshopper is no longer considered as a fool who did not save for the winter. Instead it is projected as a smart shrewd businessman who made the most of the summer and when the winter came got some bail-out funds, long term soft loans and sympathy for its cause. Instead the hard working ant is projected as a monster that has everything and is not willing to share. The question is; how long will ant tolerate being taken advantage of?
Today the question in the street is “Will Greece still be part of Euro Zone?” However, my boss asked me a different question “Will Germany continue to be part of the Euro Zone?” His rationale is simple: There is a limit of how much the strong can sacrifice for the sake of his friends and family? After a while they will be forced to pack their bags and go elsewhere. When the companies decide to downsize it is usually the strongest who take the first leap. The weak and incompetent understand that status quo is good for them. Hence they will put up unions, trade barriers, contract clauses and what not.
No doubt every member of the euro zone benefits from the integration. Common currency & free movement of people and trade has greatly benefited Europe as a whole. Since the great depression, Germans have been strongest advocates of common currency & free trade across continental Europe. However in any partnership there are some who get more than they invest and some who don’t. Most of the times, we accept that thinking we are better off through a partnership. However for how long?
Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal all seek assistance from the Europe central bank. Shutting down the banks & ATM is Greece is a good negotiating tactic. By showing weakness, they are able to get huge public sympathy. It is hard to negotiate or dictate terms on someone on the verge of starvation after all. The current level of debt will take two generations or more to repay. Hence restructuring & extension in the principal payment timelines is only procrastinates the problem and not solving it. Write-off is a more permanent solution. However it comes at a considerable expense to the rest of the group. Can countries perpetually continue to sacrifice their self-interest in the name of cohesion? Rewarding bad behavior and fiducially over-indulgent spending will only encourage it more?
I find Euro as an interesting experiment as it allows me to observe India closely. At the time of Independence India had over 300 different princely states, over 3 dozen of different languages and scripts, countless dialects and religions and cultures. Through an iron fist the country was forced to be united under a single umbrella currency & government. Euro unification is happening slower & with consent and this experiment is giving some unique insights. India too has states that are mismanaged and in perpetual debt. GDP deficit at the state level is in double % digits and many states are a perpetual drain to the exchequer. Whatever happens to Euro might as well happen to India. Interestingly Euro, like India does not have an exit policy.