Eurozone crisis: Greece exit could cost $1 trillion

Capital flight from Greece is thought to be accelerating. European governments are putting, at some speed, contingency plans together for a Greek exit.

But the latest cost of Greece detaching itself from the eurozone have been put at around $1 trillion, a figure so enormous it's almost meaningless. Could it really cost so much?

A teetering Acropolis

It depends who you talk to. Doug McWilliams of the Centre for Economic and Business Research told the Guardian a planned breakup of the single currency would cost 2% of eurozone GDP ($300bn). But a chaotic collapse would result in a 5% drop in output, a $1tn loss. "The end of the euro in its current form is a certainty," McCWilliams added.

After the election on 6 May, it's thought that up to €3bn was withdrawn from Greek bank accounts - with up to €800m withdrawn in one day. Clearly, the thought of Greek euros being transmuted into Greek devalued Drachmas overnight doesn't bear thinking about.

But the uncertainty is so huge that even experienced economists simply cannot realistically come close to predicting an accurate figure on a Greek ejection.

What they can do, instead, is reckon on the odds of Greece quitting the scene in a more or less orderly fashion, or an undisciplined mad grapple for the exits. Given that the Greeks don't have a proper operational Government, work behind the scenes is now looking increasingly at containment strategies.

All about the End Game

If the deadlocked Greek Government (such as it is) does eject from the euro, then it is hoped a decision would be made over a weekend rather than a weekday, allowing breathing space for IT equipment to recalibrate. Other costs - social, political - are simply unknowable.

But they would be enormous. For a start, think of all those Greek home owners with mortgages denominated in euros - their mortgage costs would soar overnight at a time when Greek wages are massively under pressure and unemployment widespread.

If a Greek deposit crisis unfolds quickly, similar moves by Spanish and Italian investors may be triggered. No eurozone firewall could cope. A Eurozone collapse could even follow. So economic predictions - all of them - should be taken with several buckets of salt. No one, in truth, knows.

But for now you could do worse than watch the share price of leading European banks...

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