Euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels early Tuesday approved a $171 billion bailout package for Greece, sparing the nation -- at least for the time being -- a default and, thus, the continent a dramatic downturn.
The financial volume is 130 billion euros ($171 billion) and debt-to-GDP (will be) 121 percent. Now it's down to work on the statement, one official involved in the negotiations told Reuters.
Another official confirmed that the financing would total 130 billion euros with the aim of reducing Greece's debts from around 160 percent of GDP now to 121 percent by 2020.
The 17 ministers' approval of a $430 million austerity package, passed last week by lawmakers in Greece, means the debt-choked nation can meet a $20.5 billion redemption of its bonds on March 20. The plan aims to cut the country's current debt-to gross domestic product ratio of 164 percent below 130 percent by 2020. The nominal goal has been a reduction to 120 percent, but that may not be possible.
But whether the ministers' approval means Greece can or will avoid default remains to be seen; several obstacles could still scotch the planned outcome.
The newly approved rescue package -- Greece's second in two years -- comes after seven months of wrangling, brinksmanship and posturing by leaders in both Athens and Brussels that has particularly strained ties between Greece and Germany, which will bear the financial brunt of bailing out its southern neighbor.
It also comes after numerous demonstrations, some violent, by Greek citizens against austerity measures, the latest of which include mass layoffs of government employees, pension cuts of 12 percent, a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage and sharp tax hikes. On Sunday, peaceful demonstrations involving thousands took place in Athens.
Under terms of the package, insurers and banks will exchange their Greek government bonds for cash plus longer-dated securities worth, in real terms, 70 percent of the currently held bonds, Reuters said.
The bond swap is set to begin no later than March 8 and be completed three days later.
Here is how, according to Reuters, about $124.5 billion of the $171 billion in rescue money will be used:
- About $40 billion will go to private bondholders as an incentive to participate in the swap.
- About $46 billion will be used by Greece to buy back its bonds.
- About $31 billion will go to recapitalize Greek banks.
- About $7.5 billion will be used to pay off accrued interest on the bonds being swapped.
However, even with Monday's approval, Greece could still default, some observers say.
The most significant hurdle to a final deal is Greece's unwillingness to agree to further tough conditions, like the requirement of implementing $4.4 billion in additional spending cuts and tax hikes.
Clearly, if Greece does not meet the new demands, it might be politically difficult for core governments to back down, and it could make it harder for them to ratify the rescue deal in their domestic parliaments, Capital Economics analyst Ben May wrote in a research note.
May also said that in some circles a so-called disorderly default is not seen as terribly problematic.
After all, some core policymakers have suggested that the negative effects of a disorderly default might be limited and are therefore willing to walk away if Greece does not agree to additional tough conditions, May wrote.
Another hurdle is Greece's ability to grow. The plan approved Monday assumes the nation's economy will grow strongly in 2014.