The Euro: Can’t Live With It … ?

Michael Stephens | September 19, 2013

As a member of the eurozone, Greece does not control its own currency and therefore cannot devalue said currency in an effort to promote an export-led recovery. Instead, Greece is stuck with the troika’s strategy of internal devaluation: seeking export growth through reducing unit labor costs (wages). As Dimitri Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, and Gennaro Zezza have pointed out, however, that strategy isn’t working (pdf).

Two interesting pieces by J. W. Mason suggest that the option of leaving the eurozone, which would allow Greece to revert to and subsequently devalue the drachma, may not look much more promising, at least in terms of the prospects of generating an export-led expansion. Mason examines the experience of a number of countries following the 1997 Asian crisis and sees little evidence for the currency devaluation/export-led growth story:

You can argue, I suppose, that without the devaluations export performance would have been even worse. But you cannot claim that faster export growth following the devaluations boosted demand, because no such faster growth occurred.

It’s really remarkable how much the devaluation-export growth link is taken for granted in discussions of foreign trade. But in the real world, for whatever reason, the link is often weak or nonexistent.

If that’s the case, Greece may truly be stuck — that is, without a major, and wildly unlikely, intellectual conversion within the ranks of troika and core country leadership; one that leads to an abandonment of austerity and more imaginative thinking about how to use funds from European institutions to stimulate growth and employment in the periphery.

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  1. Comment by Vytautas VakrinaSeptember 22, 2013 at 7:16 am   Reply

    Control of own currency is required not to “devalue said currency”. It is needed for government deficit spending, which certainly translates to some economy growth and internal demand boost.

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