Greek public opinion has traditionally kept its distances from subjects like the issue of bonds (and the terms such bonds carry…) to cover the never-ending needs of public finances; true enough, the Greek economy has achieved (and looks set to maintain) sky-high primary surpluses – but such surpluses are to finance the existing stock of debt. So it would seem that public opinion looks away, while the political class that caters to the public opinion so as to cling to power or to get to power follows a similar track: look away from unpleasantness!
Thus, the debate that still keeps going over the latest issue of a (largely pre-sold) 10-year/benchmark Greek bond, for the first time since the start of the beleaguered country’s travails started and its “rescue” began in the hands of its creditors, is something new to the mainstream Greek audience. Comparisons of the 3.9% yield achieved – to raise 2.5 bn euros – with the yields for Italian, Portuguese or Spanish benchmarks (at 2.75% , 1.48% and 1.2%) took little regard of the fact that such countries were out of Adjustment Programmes (Portugal) for years rather than months, or were able to part-avoid (Spain) or avoid (Italy) such indignities. Even of less relevance were the comparisons with the interest rates charged within Greece’s Programmes – of 0.89% to 1.2%, or even 3.5% for IMF assistance. Also the terms achieved by Aegean, the main air carrier in Greece, whose bond was issued some days after the sovereign one at 3.6% were invoked as criticism – but no mention was made of the bond’s size (200 mio) and duration (7 years).
The same sort of blurred reading occurred when institutional projections for the Greek economy – from the European Commission or the IMF, in a post-Programme surveillance mode – were factored in public debate. Also when the much-awaited upgrade from Moody’s was assorted with omen-reading about the perspectives of the Greek economy; some days later, Greece’s own coordinator of the Greek version of a Congressional budget Office, Frangiskos Koutentakis spoke words of caution to that same effect.
The learning curve of public opinion – even more so of the media! – over bonds, yields and perspectives of the economy – is a fascinating sight.