Monday 12 March 2012


By: Reported by Silvia Wadhwa, Written by Catherine Boyle and Ansuya Harjani 


After its second bailout was secured on Friday, Greece has been given a “new starting point” to try and restore its struggling economy to health, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told CNBC.

Greece suffered a technical default after it had to force bondholders to take part in a controversial debt-swap deal throughcollective action clauses (CAC) on Friday. Only 83.5 percent of its creditors signed up to the deal – which will wipe 100 billion euros off Greece’s debt pile by reducing the value of their bonds -- by the deadline on Thursday.

Venizelos argued that the credit event – or technical default – declared by the International Association of Swaps and Derivatives (ISDA) was not important for Greece. He also countered claims that Greece will end up needing a third bailout as it tries to cope with unpopular austerity measures.

“The credit event and triggering of the CDS (credit default swap) is something internal. This is a kind of dealing room between banks and financial entities. It’s not something important for us as a real economy,” he said.

Venizelos is confident that the country can secure “universal participation” in the debt swap scheme – the largest sovereign debt restructuring in history – following the extension of its offer until March 23.

“The market knows very well that this offer is unique, it’s a very good and profitable offer. This is (an) absolutely constructive proposal not only from the part of Greece, but also the part of the so-called official sector,” he said.

Greece needed the 130 billion euro ($170 billion) bailout from the rest of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund after struggling with a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 160 percent and 20 percent unemployment. The bailout should now be agreed on Monday.

Now, the country is facing a new election in late April or May with the two biggest parties – Venizelos’ Pasok and New Democracy – struggling in the polls. There are concerns that voters may back parties which haven’t signed up to back the bailout deal, which will bring in austerity measures that are already causing social unrest in Greece.

“The problem here is that the Greek society now after a very long period of sacrifices needs something, a good word, a positive indication,” Venizelos said. “And now, after the (private-sector involvement in the debt restructuring) and after the beginning of the implementation of the new program, we have a new starting point. This is my proposal for our people: to regain our institutional position within the European family.”

Venizelos, who was brought in as finance minister as part of a technocratic government last year, is tipped as a future prime minister of Greece and is currently the only candidate to become leader of Pasok in elections next month. He told CNBC that the bailout deal was the only way to restore the country to economic health.

“The first instrument of growth and prosperity is the necessary liquidity for the real economy and only through the new recapitalization we can achieve (this),” he said.

“For the first time,” he said, “we are in a position to present a success story for Greece.”

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Tags: Interviews