Clark looks to Asia to boost B.C.’s job outlook

Betting heavily on British Columbia’s ability to cash in on emerging Asian markets, Premier Christy Clark unveiled a jobs plan Thursday that she said will help the province become one of the country’s fastest-growing economies by 2015.

The long-anticipated plan was notably short on government spending, which Clark called a deliberate attempt to help B.C. avoid the kind of severe debt woes now plaguing Greece and the European Union.

“High-debt policies won’t work for tomorrow, and they won’t work for today either,” Clark said in a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, labelling the government spending in her plan “pretty modest.”

Instead, her plan offered a grab bag of measures aimed at attracting new foreign investment, reducing governmentimposed roadblocks and finding new buyers for B.C.’s most promising exports.

“Our plan is premised on a focused pursuit, not of the dollars we already have, but of dollars out there in other economies,” she said.

“We are facing a generational opportunity. We have a chance to lead Canada into the next century.”

Clark did not set any specific job targets for the overall plan, saying later she believes doing so would be irresponsible.

“We’ve seen other governments do that and it’s not responsible,” she said after the speech.

“It pretty much always turns out to be phoney.”

Clark’s plan did, however, set firm targets of placing B.C. among the top two provinces in GDP growth by 2015, and among the top two provinces in new job growth by 2015.

For 2011, B.C. is ranked seventh among 10 provinces for projected employment growth, and fourth in projected GDP growth.

The plan also projects that eight new B.C. mines will be in operation by 2015, and that nine existing mines will be upgraded or expanded within the same time period – measures the government estimated would create as many as 1,800 new jobs.

Clark’s plan also targets 10 new non-treaty agreements with B.C. first nations by 2015 – a measure she said will improve economic stability – and the creation of three new liquefied natural gas terminals by 2020.

New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix said Clark should have clearly laid out how many jobs she believes her plan can create.

“You would think that a jobs plan would set targets and not have its principal target being how the B.C. economy is doing relative to New Brunswick,” said Dix.

“I think that if you’re unemployed in Nanaimo right now you hope they do well in Moncton, but your target is to get the training you need to get the job of the future and the premier seems to have left real people out of this equation.”

Dix also said the plan doesn’t do enough in areas like training and education, forestry and tourism.

“The government has singularly failed to address the key issues facing the province,” he said.

“It’s not really a plan that invests in people, in human capital, in the future of our province,” he added.

“It’s a plan to try to get re-elected.”

Although many of the targets in plan don’t come due until 2015, Clark promised on Thursday to release updates twice each year on its incremental progress.

Under the schedule, Clark will release an update in March 2013, shortly before the next provincial election, scheduled for May 14, 2013.

Bernie Magnan, chief economist with the Vancouver Board of Trade, called the plan’s promised creation of a one-stop shop for investors “a great idea.”

He saw it as an opportunity to eliminate needless duplication and bureaucratic red tape that slow the process down, as well as a chance to clean out obsolete or duplicate regulations.

“In today’s world, dollars travel. They can invest anywhere in the world . and if you can reduce the amount of time it takes to do that here, then you become competitive,” he said.

Magnan said the jobs plan provides a good foundation for growth, but the work is only just beginning.

“Now we’ve got to get down to the nitty-gritty, get down to putting the plan together and getting it into action,” he said.

Clark released her plan against a backdrop of global market turmoil and widespread concerns about another painful global recession.

The SP/TSX composite index fell more than three per cent Thursday to its lowest point in more than a year.

Experts attributed the drop to a disappointing statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s open market committee on Wednesday, and to worsethan-expected economic reports from China, Europe and North America.

On Thursday, Clark used the grim news to underscore the importance “that we keep our focus on this plan.” “Our province is a place of relative calm and stability, but we are surrounded in almost every corner of the world by economic turmoil,” she said.

“Today alone we have seen a global market sell-off, a significant decline in our own currency and escalating crisis in the eurozone. Our best friend and our closest neighbour, the United States, is grappling with high unemployment and high debt,” she added.

“I don’t think I have to sugar-coat anything for the people in this room. There’s tough sledding ahead for all of us. But we will not keep our heads above water by hunkering down.”

In her plan, Clark proposed about $300 million in government spending on a variety of initiatives.

In some cases, it is one-time project spending, while in others it is spread over two or three years.

One of the main highlights of the plan is $50 million to improve the provincially owned corridor connecting Deltaport to Canada’s rail transportation network.

“With this contribution, the Port of Metro Vancouver can move forward with a $200-million expansion to increase container capacity, enabling the creation of over 600 jobs at port operations and ensuring goods move much more efficiently,” Clark said in her speech.

Clark also announced $24 million over two years to allow natural resource ministries to eliminate a backlog that is keeping many projects from moving ahead.

She also announced a Major Investments Office, meant to offer direct assistance to potential investors, and a BC Jobs and Investment Board, which she said will be running within 60 days.

“[The board] will include citizens from all across the province to promote economic development by holding government’s feet to the fire, to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to make B.C. competitive and not standing in the way of good jobs,” said Clark.

“B.C. will only win if we win together. And so this board will bring together business leaders, labour leaders, community leaders and government to fight for jobs like never before.”

Clark said she will unveil the final portion of her jobs plan at a speech today, where she is expected to announce a reorganization of the province’s foreign trade and investment offices.

“We are launching an investorfocused international marketing campaign,” she said in her speech Thursday. “I will have a lot more to say about the specifics of that when I speak to the Business Council’s Asia-Pacific forum [Friday].”

[email protected] With files from Darah Hansen and Postmedia News


Five fixes for the global crisis

Diagnosing what has gone wrong in the past few years and how we’ve ended up on the brink of another crisis is the easy bit. But how do we get out of the mess? What would a “collective and bold action plan”, which is what the G20 is promising, look like? There are no easy answers but here are five suggestions:

1. Inject more capital into the European banking system. The IMF is screaming for it, and rightly so if its €200bn-€300bn estimate of the sovereign debt risk is even remotely correct. Fiddling around with the 16 mid-sized laggards who failed, or marginally passed, the summer stress tests is not enough. Big French banks may offer plausible arguments for why their capital cushions are sufficiently plump to withstand more than a Greek default, but markets have moved on. The sheer size of balance sheets is intimidating investors who don’t know where the losses will land. More capital is the best way to create confidence. Likelihood factor: 4/5

2. Get the Greek default done. Piling austerity on austerity in Greece is no solution. The numbers don’t work, even with mini-haircuts for bondholders announced in July: growth isn’t happening and the road to a competitive economy is too long. The debt write-off has to be larger – probably at least 50%. The “orderly” part of default really means a plan to contain contagion. For investors to be confident that Greece is a one-off, the eurozone has to throw protective arms around Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. That means Germany, in particular, has to decide what guarantees it is prepared to give and what it wants to see in return. Likelihood factor: 3/5

3. More stimulus. The risk of inflation is fading fast as recession grows closer and commodity prices fall. The Fed’s “operation twist” looks too little to stimulate demand. Stronger medicine is required. That may mean more quantitative easing. But measures to get loans directly into the hands of small businesses may be better. In the UK cutting national insurance, a tax on jobs, may be required. Likelihood factor: 4/5

4. Less austerity. Investors’ greatest fear now is lack of growth. With low-term cost of borrowing for governments so low, the case for more spending on infrastructure is strengthening. It’s tricky for any government to do it alone without upsetting its local bond market. This is one area where co-ordinated international action is critical. Likelihood factor: 2/5

5. Free the renminbi. Persuading China to loosen its currency peg to the dollar may sound like mission impossible. But imbalances in global trade lie at the heart of the crisis – a new deal for the global economy has to give rebalancing a greater chance of happening. Even China, let’s hope, can now see the need to change direction and encourage more domestic consumption and fewer exports. Likelihood factor: 1/5


Go Greek

LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWSBaklava dessert at Hibiscus Cafe.

LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWS
Baklava dessert at Hibiscus Cafe.


The Greek Village Salad with chicken at Hibiscus Cafe.

The Greek Village Salad with chicken at Hibiscus Cafe.


photos by LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWSTzatziki sauce with pita bread is one of the appetizer choices at Hibiscus Cafe.

photos by LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWS
Tzatziki sauce with pita bread is one of the appetizer choices at Hibiscus Cafe.


LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWSGyro with french fries at Hibiscus Cafe.

LUNCH BUNCH/TIMES RECORD NEWS
Gyro with french fries at Hibiscus Cafe.


Hibiscus Cafe

Where: 1616 Pearlie Drive

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday (call ahead for availability on the Saturday night souvlakia)

Prices: Appetizers are around $5. Most entrees are from $9 to $15.

Information: 940-855-5881

Tucked into a strip mall blocks away from the main gate at Sheppard Air Force Base, you will find Hibiscus Cafe, a friendly, family-owned Greek eatery where no one is a stranger.

When I arrived to meet a lunch date at the cozy establishment, I was greeted warmly. Whether you are a regular or a newbie, expect to be treated like family at Hibiscus.

The Greek specialties are hard to beat. The eatery features the freshest, high-quality ingredients made to customers’ specifications. If you go for lunch, arrive early or late to avoid the noon lunch rush from the base.

Looking for healthy appetizers, I ordered the tzatziki sauce with pita bread. If you are unfamiliar with Greek food, don’t be afraid to try something new! Tzatziki is a flavorful, low-calorie yogurt dip. Hibiscus makes it just how I like it, with lots of zingy garlic and creamy yogurt flavor. The pita is fluffy, warm and fresh-tasting. I could eat my weight in the stuff, so I try to share. Try is the key word there.

Another great starter is the spanakopita, a triangle-shaped phyllo dough pastry filled with spinach, feta and spices. Order more than one if you are feeding a crowd, because they will go quickly. I also enjoy the hummus and pita bread appetizer for a little filling protein that features lots of flavor.

My go-to healthy lunch option at Hibiscus is the Greek Village Salad. I like protein with my salad, so I ordered chicken breast strips on top. The staff also offers a gyro-meat topping if you prefer that to chicken. Both are great, but the chicken is my favorite because it’s light and airy but still full of flavor. It melds completely with the Greek salad flavors of fresh feta cheese, onions, bell peppers, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and vinaigrette-style Greek dressing. The portion is more than enough to suffice for lunch or dinner, and it is hard to put the fork down on such a great-tasting salad.

My lunch buddy ordered the gyro with feta cheese. I got to try a bite (barely) and was overwhelmed by the creamy tzatziki, fresh veggies and flavorful gyro meat. Hibiscus knows its gyros, however you pronounce it, and you would be remiss not to try one if you’ve never experienced this Greek answer to the sandwich wrap. Hibiscus serves french fries on the side with the gyros, and they are among the best french fries in town. No kidding. The best part is dipping those delicious taters in some tzatziki sauce. Call me crazy, but I like tzatziki better than ketchup with fries now that I’ve been to Hibiscus.

No meal at Hibiscus would be complete without a little baklava. The famous dessert features phyllo dough layered with honey, nuts and spices. I shared with my buddy, to keep the calorie count down a little bit, but it may even be worth the splurge to order your own piece if you have calories to spare. I just about licked the plate at the end, and was sad to see that baklava disappear in a haze of crunchy, sweet goodness.

My buddy ordered a cup of Greek coffee, as well. Hibiscus may be the only place in town where you can get a cup of Greek coffee sweetened to your taste, and if you haven’t tried it before, you’re really missing out. Just don’t drink the “sludge” at the bottom of the cup. After that caffeine fix, I was ready to face the afternoon with no fear of a desktop snooze session.

The service is second to none, with prompt attention to patrons’ every need. The décor inside Hibiscus is lovely, including murals painted on the wall with scenes from what looks like the island of Santorini.

Take your friends, take your wife, take your parents, heck, take your kids to Hibiscus. It is one of the only restaurants in the area to offer exquisite, fresh food for reasonable prices in a comfortable, welcoming cafe atmosphere. If you can’t travel to Greece in person to experience its fabulous cuisine, take the short drive out to Hibiscus and give your mouth a vacation from the ordinary.

Five forks for Hibiscus Cafe!


Cook and Cosmos to turn up heat on Greece

Greece looks set to become a key battleground in 2012 with both Thomas Cook and Cosmos promising to ramp up their activities in the destination.

Thomas Cook head of mainstream Ian Ailles told TTA Worldchoice delegates at this weekend’s overseas conference that Manos was a brand that had been “under developed� in recent years.

And addressing the conference via video Monarch Group business development director Stuart Jackson said it was expanding its Greece portfolio. At the turn of the year Monarch ended a flights deal with Olympic Holidays for what was believed to be 250,000 peak season seats, bringing them in-house to support the Cosmos tour operation.

Jackson said Cosmos was trading well ahead of the market for summer 2012 at 20% up, against the overall market that was down 1%. He said TTA Worldchoice agents were 37% up for Cosmos.

He told agents Cosmos currently sold around 20% through independent agents but that the Monarch group did not put a cap on this and it was limited only “by the desire of agents to sell it�.

Cosmos believes it is gaining ground on rivals as agents look for an alternative to selling holidays provided by the big two and want the reassurance of a well known brand. Despite the good start to 2012 trading he warned: “The industry has gone through a difficult period and that will continue. 2012 will be an even tougher year.

“During tough times it’s key that we select our partners correctly and work with people we know are going to around for the long term.� Ailles also reported that 2012 had got off to a good start although he too warned the economic backdrop meant that the next 12 months would be tough.

He praised rival Tui for its performance, saying it was benefitting from some of the changes made by its former management team. “It’s not easy to turn a tour operator around quickly. They have had the benefit of a couple of years [of doing this] and that’s helped them this year.

“I anticipate that some other tour operators as we get to the end of the season and the end of the cashflow cycle will fail. The good news is summer 2012 has got off to a great start. We are significantly ahead of where we were for Summer 2011. It’s about having the right product in the right market at the right time.”


Tryouts set for U-10 travel baseball team

A U-10 travel baseball team is forming in Rochester to play in the North Coast League next spring. The commitment includes 16 league games and four tournaments in and around the Rochester area.

Tryouts will be Oct. 8 and 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Carter Park in Greece.

Players may not turn 11 before May 1, 2012.

The costs for participation is anticipated to be around $400 per player which includes North Coast League Fees, insurance, uniforms and tournaments in the Rochester and Buffalo area.

To register, contact Mike Kimble at 585-255-0981 or [email protected] More information is available at the website www.roccityredwings.org.


Hope in a Greek tragedy

Picture postcard ... the tourist drawcard of Shipwreck Bay on the Ionian island of Zakynthos.

Picture postcard … the tourist drawcard of Shipwreck Bay on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. Photo: Getty Images

Athens wants to shake its tourism industry’s image of sun, sand and sex, writes Helena Smith.

It’s 10pm on a Friday on the island of Zakynthos and the main drag of Laganas – party resort, hedonists’ delight, Greek playground par excellence – is alive with the sound of music. Above the hubbub, a group of inebriated young Britons make their way unsteadily up the street chanting: ‘‘It’s full of shit, it’s full of shit.’’

Surveying the scene from her ceramics shop, Vasso Georgiadou heaves a sigh of resignation. ‘‘When they don’t drink, they are such good kids,’’ she says, adding that by the time the sun rises ‘‘there’ll be hundreds of them’’ wandering the resort in a drunken stupor. ‘‘But it’s not only their fault. Unfortunately, this is the tourism we Greeks have tolerated, we Greeks have gone out of our way to create.’’

Just like towns on Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Crete, the once peaceful village of Laganas has managed to scale new heights in debauchery.

‘‘This is not the best image, but then Laganas is not Greece,’’ says the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, George Nikitiadis. ‘‘Many times it is the system, the tour operators who co-ordinate these bar crawls, which makes these kids act in this way. We don’t want tourists to leave with this experience. Our country has so much more to offer.’’

So where has the tourism industry in Greece gone wrong? ‘‘The sector went wrong in every way that Greece went wrong,’’ Nikitiadis says.

‘‘There was no strategy, no methodology, no preparation, no business plan. The markets, the tour operators, the travel agencies, the airlines, they all came to us. We didn’t go to them.’’

This year, Athens has gone to them, acutely aware the 12 million tourists who visit Greece annually will offer the single biggest relief to an economy crippled by recession.

With tourism accounting for 18 per cent of gross domestic product, and one in five Greeks working in the field, the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, has frequently declared it will be the motor to drive the economy forward.

But first, there is the little problem of Laganas – and the hoary image of sun, sand, sea and sex that Greece, since the onset of mass tourism in the 1960s, is often associated with.

Greece attracts 52 per cent of its visitors between July and September and the overload has put immense strain on an infrastructure finding it increasingly hard to cope.

On the Cycladic isle of Koufonisia, tourists were left stranded in July, not because the local boat failed to show up but because its only cash machine ran out of money.

For too long, Nikitiadis sighs, the industry was dominated by political patronage. ‘‘It was all about party influence and political favours. It was crazy. Now, little by little, we are trying to make that system disappear but it’s not easy. Similarly, we’re trying to prioritise alternative forms of tourism, like agritourism and religious tourism, to encourage visitors to come all year round.’’

– Guardian News Media


Can investors unearth bargains amid the eurozone ruins?

But contrarian investors will be eyeing the opportunity to go back in and snap up bargains – European equities are currently trading on very low valuations, among the lowest of all markets globally. With many indices some 30pc off their peak for the year, the so-called bottom fishers will be starting to unpack their rods.

Willem Sels, UK head of investment strategy at HSBC, said the selling had been “indiscriminate”, with good companies being sold alongside the bad ones.

He said: “Worries over the Continent’s sovereign debt markets and the possible implications for the banking sector in the event of a default or restructuring have weighed heavily on sentiment.”

The euro crisis has not broken overnight – it is more than a year since Greece’s sovereign debt problems surfaced. In short, markets have had plenty of time to come to terms with Europe’s predicament, leading to questions about whether the bad news is priced in.

Rory Bateman, the head of European equities at Schroders, said: “We believe European equities are already pricing in a fairly bleak scenario, as illustrated by the 20pc correction since February this year. With the appropriate policy responses from Europe and the US, we believe downside risk from here is limited.”

There is also a big gap between bond yields and dividend yields – and yield is the word on many investors’ lips at this moment, with interest rates in the Western world at historical lows.

According to The Economist magazine, if you combine the FTSE 100 and Euro Stoxx 50 indexes some 46 stocks (almost a third of the total) were yielding more than 5pc on September 13 and were offering an annual income three percentage points higher than that available from safer government bonds.

It said that if investors eliminated the banks on the ground of riskiness, that still left 40 high-yielding stocks. “There will be plenty of investors who figure that the chance to own blue-chip stocks on yields of more than 5pc is too good to miss,” said The Economist.

What’s more, Absolute Strategy Research, a consultancy, reckons that European companies have some €800bn ($1.1 trillion) of cash on their balance sheets, enough to cover dividends – and this should provide investors with a degree of confidence.

Mr Sels said: “Europe has numerous problems to conquer in the coming months but, with time, assuming a global recession is avoided, attractive long-term opportunities may become available in its equity markets. Areas of the European market look less troublesome. Selling of European stocks has been indiscriminate, which leaves all sectors trading significantly below their long-term valuations.”

But Mr Sels has chosen his words carefully, hence the use of “may”. Indeed, he readily admits that the pressing problem for Europe, apart from the banks, is growth.

“Part of the reason for equities trading on such low valuations is the belief that earnings forecasts for this year and next have to fall. The good news for European equities is that markets look decently priced even following the large amount of downgrading that has already occurred. But we believe it is too early to add much to riskier positions and we are focusing on high-quality European names in the core markets. We maintain our longer-term strategy of building positions in those companies that retain a healthy exposure to emerging markets.”

So what should investors do? Few analysts are suggesting that now is the buying opportunity of a lifetime for private investors – uncertainty still abounds and is likely to for some time.

Chris Rice of Cazenove said it was increasingly clear that the tensions in markets were becoming sufficiently severe as to indicate that a bigger buying call on equities might present itself over the coming 12 months.

Mr Rice said: “Value has appeared in parts of the non-financial European equity market to an extent where we must become less bearish. The unresolved problem for the market is the negative feedback loop between government credit and the banking system. Until this is resolved, the crisis will persist.”

But he added: “Any broad political consensus in support of a plan to restore the euro’s credibility as an international currency for investment will quickly improve sentiment. However, values may just become too cheap and selling exhausted. These are the only requirements of the start of a recovery in equity values. We are not completely there yet, but we are getting closer.”

Bill O’Neill of Merrill Lynch suggested that the coup de frappe that propels confidence back into markets was “sorely absent”.

“We don’t know what it is – Greek default, Eurobonds or French bank nationalisation – but there will likely be a defining moment, positive or negative, silver bullet or dagger’s point,” he said.

He added that the market had nearly fully priced in a Greek default and that, although equity markets were cheap, they were under severe pressure too.

“With uncertainty on the political front still high, volatility in eurozone equities and banks is likely to remain elevated over the coming weeks and months,” he said.

The message from advisers is to keep your powder dry until there is more clarity on the future of the euro rather than take a deep breath and jump in now. Events this week show that there is more pain to come. However, fund groups will start promoting European funds only after the easy money has been made.

Mark Dampier of Hargreaves Lansdown recalled the ERM ejection in 1992 when the markets fell, but then rebounded strongly.

“The whole episode was a golden buying opportunity for UK equities,” he said. “My feeling is still that you should ensure you have cash in your portfolio to give you the option to buy more equities and corporate bonds if markets fall. If there is a large fall, I think it will herald a major buying opportunity.”


Greece on Edge of Insolvency 24 Centuries After City Default


Enlarge image

Greece on Edge of Insolvency 24 Centuries After City Default

Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

A Greek flag is reflected in glass broken during previous protests in Athens on September 20, 2011.

A Greek flag is reflected in glass broken during previous protests in Athens on September 20, 2011. Photographer: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) — Thomas Mirow, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, talks about the bank’s mission and balance sheet, and the European sovereign-debt crisis.
Mirow, a former German Finance Ministry official, speaks with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television’s “Taking Stock.” (Source: Bloomberg)


Enlarge image

Greece on Edge of Insolvency

Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Members of leftist Syriza party and ‘we won’t pay’ movement burn their emergency tax notes outside the Finance Ministry in Athens on September 22, 2011.

Members of leftist Syriza party and ‘we won’t pay’ movement burn their emergency tax notes outside the Finance Ministry in Athens on September 22, 2011. Photographer: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images


Enlarge image

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

Jock Fistick/Bloomberg

George Papandreou, prime minister of Greece, says throwing in the towel now would be a “catastrophe.”

George Papandreou, prime minister of Greece, says throwing in the towel now would be a “catastrophe.” Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg

History’s first sovereign default
came in the 4th century BC, committed by 10 Greek
municipalities. There was one creditor: the temple of Delos,
Apollo’s mythical birthplace.

Twenty-four centuries later, Greece is at the edge of the
biggest sovereign default and policy makers are worried about
global shock waves of an insolvency by a government with 353
billion euros ($483 billion) of debt — five times the size of
Argentina’s $95 billion default in 2001.

“There is a monstrously large amount of uncertainty and a
massive range of possibilities,” said David Mackie, chief
European economist at JPMorgan Chase Co. in London. “A
macroeconomic disaster could be averted but only by aggressive
policy action” by central banks and governments, he said.

After two international-bailout deals, three years of
recession and budget-cutting votes that almost cost him his job,
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou says throwing in the
towel now would be a “catastrophe.” Potential consequences of
a national bankruptcy include the failure of the country’s
banking system, an even deeper economic contraction and
government collapse.

The fallout may echo the days following the 2008 implosion
of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. when credit markets froze and
the global economy sank into recession, this time with the
prospect that the 17-nation euro zone splinters before reaching
its teens. The International Monetary Fund, whose annual
meetings start in Washington today, reckons the debt crisis has
generated as much as 300 billion euros in credit risk for
European banks.

Default Risk

Greek two-year yields surged above 70 percent today and
credit-insurance prices on Greece indicate the chance of default
at more than 90 percent. Investors can expect losses on Greek
debt of as much as 100 percent, says Mark Schofield, head of
interest-rate strategy at Citigroup Inc. in London.

“People, justifiably, think the crisis is what we’re
living now: cuts in wages, pensions and incomes, fewer prospects
for the young,” Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told
reporters yesterday in Athens. “Unfortunately this isn’t the
crisis. This is an attempt, a difficult attempt, to protect
ourselves and avert a crisis. Because the crisis is Argentina:
the complete collapse of the economy, institutions, the social
fabric and the productive base of the country.”

Even if Greece receives its next aid payment, due next
month, default beckons in December when 5.23 billion euros of
bonds mature, said Harvinder Sian, senior interest rate
strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

‘Too Late’

“It’s too late for Greece,” Howard Davies, a former U.K.
central banker and financial regulator, told “Bloomberg
Surveillance” with Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt. “The Greek
situation is tumbling out of hand and I suspect Greece will not
be able to avoid a substantial default.”

The introduction of the euro and global financial
connections mean previous Greek defaults in the 19th and 20th
century, most recently in 1932, don’t provide a decent precedent
for a failure to satisfy lenders now.

“Contagion will be violent” as the price of the two-year
Greek note tumbles below 30 cents per euro, predicts Sian. The
European Central Bank would be the first responders through
purchases of government debt, he says.

Greek Banks

The country’s banks, of which National Bank of Greece SA (ETE) is
the largest, would be the next dominoes. They hold most of the
137 billion euros of Greek government bonds in domestic hands, a
third of the total and three times their level of capital and
reserves, says JPMorgan Chase. As those bonds are written down
and equity wiped out, banks would lose the collateral needed to
borrow from the ECB and suffer a rush of withdrawals that likely
triggers nationalizations, said Commerzbank AG economist
Christoph Balz.

“No banking system in the world would survive such a bank
run,” said Frankfurt-based Balz.

A hollowed-out banking sector wouldn’t be the only danger
to an economy that the IMF says will contract for a fourth year
in 2012. The Washington-based lender said this week that Greece
will shrink 5 percent this year and 2 percent next year,
reversing a forecast of a return to growth in 2012.

Unemployment is set to rise to 16.5 percent this year, and
to 18.5 percent next year, the highest in the European Union
after Spain and dry kindling for potential social unrest.

Even after saving 14 billion euros in debt repayments, much
depends on what deal Greece could strike with its creditors.

Debt Load

To restore market confidence the debt needs to be pared to
below 100 percent of gross domestic product, Stephane Deo, chief
European economist at UBS AG, said in a July study that noted
national default was “invented” in Greece with the Delos
Temple episode. At the time, the IMF was projecting the debt to
peak at 172 percent next year.

The current debt suggests to him a reduction in the face
value of outstanding securities — or haircut — of about 50
percent, which would pare the burden to around 80 percent of
GDP, the same as Germany and France. Citigroup’s Schofield
estimates a writedown of 65 percent to 80 percent, potentially
rising as high as 100 percent as the economy slows further.

If default is limited to Greece, the fallout may be
contained, say Nomura Securities International Inc. strategists
including New York-based Jens Nordvig, whose projections allow
for an 80 percent haircut. They estimate euro-area banks would
lose just over 63 billion euros, with German and French
institutions losing 9 billion euros and 16 billion euros
respectively. The ECB would face about 75 billion euros in
losses on Greek debt it has bought or received as collateral,
they say.

‘Large Haircuts’

Such amounts suggest “the losses from Greece-related
exposures in isolation look manageable, even in a disorderly
default scenario with large haircuts,” though the ECB would
probably require fresh capital from euro-area governments,
Nordvig and colleagues said in a Sept. 7 report.

A debt exchange that was part of the second Greek bailout
approved by European leaders in July would impose losses of as
little as 5 percent on bondholders, according to a Sept. 7
report by Barclays Capital analysts.

The risk is that the rot spreads beyond Greece as investors
begin dumping the debt of other cash-strapped European nations,
said Ted Scott, director of global strategy at FC Asset
Management in London. Portugal and Ireland have already been
bailed out, while speculators have also tested Italy and Spain.
Italy, the world’s eighth-largest economy, has a debt of almost
1.6 trillion euros, while Spain, the 12th biggest economy, owes
656 billion euros.

‘Grand Solution’

Those possible ripple effects explain why policy makers
won’t let Greece default, said Charles Diebel, head of market
strategy at Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets in London. He expects
them to strike a “grand solution” in which richer euro
countries such as Germany support the weak and begin issuing
joint bonds.

Policy makers “would only allow a Greek default if they
think they can contain the fallout, which is a dangerous
presumption,” said Diebel.

If Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain all impose haircuts,
European banks could lose as much as $543 billion with those in
Germany and France suffering the most, according to a May report
by strategists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Even those figures don’t tell the full story because they
omit indirect exposure via derivatives such as credit-default
swaps. Economists at Fathom Financial Consulting in London
calculated in June that U.K. and U.S. banks hold such insurance
on Greek debt totaling 25 billion euros and 3.7 billion euros
respectively. Extend that metric to the whole European periphery
and U.S. banks have a 193 billion euro exposure.

‘Even Worse’

Such linkages threaten an “even worse crisis” than the
folding of Lehman Brothers, said Scott. “The amount of
outstanding debt is more than with Lehman and we don’t know the
amount of derivative exposure.”

To support the financial system and stave off an economic
slump, Carl Weinberg, founder of High Frequency Economics Ltd.
in Valhalla, New York, says governments must create a fund to
inject capital into banks as the U.S. did with its $700 billion
Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“If banks fail, or if they fear big losses, they will stop
lending,” said Weinberg. “As things stand today, a credit
crunch will corset euroland and a depression will ensue when
Greece fails and takes out euroland’s banking system.”

G-20 Signals

Signaling efforts to contain the crisis, European officials
including French Finance Minister Francois Baroin yesterday said
they may be willing to use leverage to boost the firepower of
their 440 billion-euro bailout fund. Group of 20 finance chiefs
said after talks in Washington late yesterday that European
authorities are willing to “maximize” the fund’s impact by the
time the group next meets Oct. 14-15.

The ECB may also intensify its own attempts to support
growth and ease financial market tensions as early as next
month, Governing Council members Ewald Nowotny and Luc Coene
said. Potential measures include the reintroduction of 12-month
loans to banks, while JPMorgan Chase’s Mackie said today he
expects the central bank to cut its benchmark interest rate of
1.5 percent next month.

BofA-Merrill Lynch economist Laurence Boone calculates a
disorderly Greek default with spillover into Spain and Italy
could mean the euro-area contracts 1.3 percent in 2012, using
the Lehman Brothers episode as a benchmark.

Waiting for Surplus

Her “high probability” scenario of a Greek restructuring
in 2013 when Europe’s permanent crisis resolution mechanism is
operational and Greece is closer to having its primary budget in
balance suggests growth of 1 percent next year. The
“increasingly likely” option of an orderly restructuring at
the end of this year would mean expansion of 0.1 percent, she
projects.

Hanging over the debate is also whether Greece could
default and remain a member of the euro area. Nouriel Roubini,
co-founder of Roubini Global Economics LLC in New York, proposes
that default — and an end to debt repayments and required
austerity measures — be twinned with an exit from the euro –an
approach rejected by European and Greek policy makers — to
restore competitiveness and debt sustainability.

Rebounds

After shrinking 10.9 percent in 2002 following its decision
to default and devalue, Argentina’s economy grew eight years
straight, exceeding 8 percent in every year aside from 2008 and
2009. Russia was growing in double digit just two years after
defaulting on $40 billion of local debt in 1998.

In contrast, facing only hard choices, EU officials have
taken half-measures in the hope that the situation would somehow
turn around, said Rodrigo Olivares-Caminal, senior lecturer in
financial law at the University of London.

“What they have done so far is a patchwork approach,” he
said. “Now things are much worse. It’s becoming more expensive
not only in economic terms but also in social terms for Greek
citizens because now there will be redundancies, now there will
be more taxes there will be less jobs and things will get
worse.”

To contact the reporters on this story:
Simon Kennedy in London at
[email protected];
Maria Petrakis in Athens at
[email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
John Fraher at [email protected]