Speculation about a Greek restructuring (or in the milder form a reprofiling) have reached a new high. Reason is that in the short term Greece needs to secure the payment of the next tranche from the EU/IMF bail-out package, otherwise it is running out of cash at the beginning of July. But looking into 2012/2013 reveals that even with the bail-out package Greece faces a funding shortfall of around EUR 60bn (see chart below, courtesy of RBC). It was assumed that by 2012 Greece would be able to access the capital markets again to secure parts of its financing needs. However, now this appears very very unlikely. In turn, Greece either needs more bail-out funds or its need to restructure its debt (at least do a maturity lengthening exercise). While I have for a long time stated that Greece is insolvent (see for example the Greek Fire series which I started in autumn 2009), I think that a restructuring now needs to be avoided and should be delayed into 2013.
Greek funding needs and financing shortfall
The second key reason for a delayed restructuring is that the high sovereign debt of Greece is not the cause of the problem but only a symptom. Greece has very weak sovereign institutions/weak governance. As a result of that the Greek state has a substantial revenue problem (much more so than an expenditure problem). The chart below shows estimates for the shadow economy (in % of GDP) vs. the ranking in the Ease of Doing Business index constructed by the World Bank. Tax compliance in Greece is very low and Greece's shadow economy is estimated to be around 25% of GDP, by far the highest in the Eurozone. Furthermore, Greece ranks only #109 for ease of doing business. Additionally, Greece ranks also lowest for a Eurozone country in the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International (#78).
Weak institutions in Greece: Ease of doing business vs. shadow economy
These structural shortcomings have burdened Greece for a long time and are the root cause for the high debt burden. If Greece reduces its debt via default, then the Greek sovereign will still face this revenue problem and the Greek economy its structural shortfalls. In turn, it would only be a matter of time before Greece indebtedness starts soaring again and a new debt-cycle commences.
As a result, first Greece needs to strenghten its governance and improve its economic structure before it should restructure. If it restructures now, this will ease the pain and hence reduce the pressure for such measures.