Portugal Kencangkan Ikat Pinggang
Minggu, 28 November 2010 | 22:21 WIB
TEMPO Interaktif, Lisabon – Di tengah derasnya desakan agar pemerintah Portugal mengambil dana talangan dari lembaga internasional, Perdana Menteri Jose Socrates, Jumat pekan lalu, menyetujui program pengetatan belanja negara 2011.
“Tak ada alternatif sama sekali, kita harus mengambil langkah ini,” kata Socrates, dalam pernyataan singkat, setelah mendatangi parlemen. Ia yakin program ini sanggup mengembalikan kepercayaan pasar terhadap Portugal.
Belakangan ini, investor dibuat cemas oleh utang Portugal yang besar dengan angka pertumbuhan rendah. Mereka khawatir negara berpenduduk sekitar 10 juta orang ini menyusul Yunani dan Irlandia, yang membutuhkan dana talangan.
Socrates menegaskan bahwa Portugal berada di jalur yang benar dalam upaya mengurangi defisit menjadi 7,3 persen dari produk domestik bruto tahun ini. Ia menargetkan defisit 2011 sebesar 4,6 persen, yang berarti lebih rendah dari Inggris, Prancis, dan Spanyol.
Tahun lalu, defisit 9,3 persen menjadikan Portugal sebagai negara dengan defisit tertinggi setelah Yunani, Irlandia, dan Spanyol. Pemerintah Portugal dianjurkan mengambil bantuan internasional supaya “penyakitnya” tidak menyebar ke Spanyol.
Menteri Keuangan Fernando Teixeira dos Santos menegaskan kembali sikap pemerintah Portugal meski ditentang banyak pihak. “Ada pemikiran di Uni Eropa bahwa cara terbaik menjamin stabilitas euro dengan memaksa negara-negara yang terkena krisis menerima bantuan,” ujarnya.
Teixeira mengatakan Portugal memiliki waktu 6 bulan untuk menunjukkan kepada pasar bahwa negaranya bisa mengendalikan belanja. Beleid pengetatan utang menimbulkan ongkos politik bagi pemerintah sosialis yang minoritas ini.
Untuk mengegolkan beleid itu, pemerintah harus bernegosiasi dengan partai oposisi. Sayang, partai lainnya menolak beleid tersebut lantaran dianggap memperburuk penderitaan di negara yang tergolong miskin untuk ukuran Benua Eropa ini.
Kemarin, rencananya diputuskan besaran dana talangan yang akan dikucurkan Dana Moneter Internasional (IMF) dan Uni Eropa kepada Irlandia. Menteri Komunikasi Irlandia Eamon Ryan mengatakan jumlah pinjaman yang akan dikucurkan senilai 85 miliar euro (US$ 115 miliar).
Ryan berharap kesepakatan pengucuran dana talangan bisa dicapai sebelum pembukaan pasar pada Senin (29/11). Ia juga meyakinkan pinjaman untuk menutupi utang itu tidak akan dikenai bunga tinggi.
AP | ANTON WILLIAM | KARTIKA CANDRA | EFRI
EU to back Irish bailout and sketch long-term solution
By Jan Strupczewski and Julien Toyer
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union was poised to approve an 85 billion euro ($115 billion) rescue for Ireland on Sunday and announce outlines of a permanent system to resolve Europe’s spreading debt crisis, a euro zone source said.
Finance ministers from the 16-nation euro zone, anxious to prevent financial market contagion from engulfing Portugal and Spain, met to endorse an emergency loan package to help Dublin cover bad bank debts and bridge a massive budget deficit.
A German government source said the ministers were also discussing Portugal and its possible need of an EU bailout.
Under pressure to take dramatic action to arrest a systemic threat to the euro, the leaders of Germany and France, the EU’s two central powers, agreed in principle with top EU officials on the broad lines of a permanent crisis-resolution mechanism.
Crucially, private bond holders would be expected to share the burden of any future sovereign debt restructuring of a euro zone country on a case-by-case basis, the source said.
The heads of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Council and euro zone finance ministers discussed the Franco-German proposal by telephone on Sunday.
All 27 EU finance ministers were expected to endorse the broad outlines of the longer-term plan before markets open in Asia on Monday, the source said.
“You know that we have a very serious situation, we have to do our utmost to protect the foundations of our economic recovery,” EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters on arrival for the Brussels talks.
He said ministers would go beyond endorsing the EU/IMF aid package for Ireland and “discuss the systemic response to this crisis.” But it was unclear how much detail would be announced about a long-term financial safety net.
The lack of detail in an earlier Franco-German deal on a permanent crisis mechanism, agreed last month, and talk of private investors having to take losses, or “haircuts,” on the value of sovereign bonds, helped drive Ireland over the cliff.
EU sources said a team of specialists from the Commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund had finalized a deal with Irish authorities in Dublin after 10 days of negotiations.
However, some key details, notably the interest rate and the term of the loans, expected to be between three and six years, would be finalized by ministers. French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said the loans would total 85 billion euros.
“The assistance to Ireland is nearly done,” she told reporters. “We just have a little fine-tuning to be done, notably on interest rates.”
The EU sources said 35 billion euros was earmarked to help restructure and recapitalize Ireland’s shattered banks while 50 billion euros would go to help fill the hole that guaranteeing bank debts has blown in public finances.
With anxiety rattling bond markets, the Irish government has been under intense pressure to accept a bailout despite repeatedly saying in recent weeks that it did not need one.
European leaders are hoping that the package for Ireland, drawn from a 750 billion euro rescue fund agreed by the EU in May this year, will convince markets that the crisis can be contained and spare Portugal and Spain — the next two countries identified as potentially at risk.
“We have to make decisions which show that in the future, we are capable of resisting where there are shocks and turbulence,” Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders told reporters.
Debt worries have driven the crisis for the past year almost without respite. It has severely dented confidence in the 12-year-old euro currency and produced what amounts to a showdown between European politicians and financial markets.
In a flurry of phone calls over the weekend, French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Tens of thousands of Irish took to the streets of Dublin on Saturday to protest the looming bailout, and Irish opposition parties said they would not accept excessive rates of interest.
The parties, Fine Gael and Labour, are expected to rout unpopular Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail party in an election likely within months. They have said they would be bound by a rescue deal but may try to renegotiate details.
Both parties want bond investors who lent money to Irish banks to take on a bigger share of their country’s bailout burden, rather than foisting it all on Irish taxpayers.
Jitters sent the shares of European banks which hold the debt of Irish banks tumbling on Friday. The euro also fell to a two-month low against the dollar and the borrowing costs of Ireland, Portugal and Spain stood near record highs.
PORTUGAL AND SPAIN
European officials have been at pains to play down the links between Ireland and Portugal, widely seen as the next euro zone “domino” at risk. Troubles in Portugal could spread quickly to its larger neighbor Spain because of their close economic ties.
Unlike the other financially weak countries on the euro zone’s southern periphery, Spain is on track to meet its deficit reduction targets and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has ruled out seeking aid.
Nevertheless, the government in Madrid has taken several steps to reassure markets about its finances in recent days, announcing that it will publish monthly updates on its public debt and move more quickly to reform the pension system.
Greece, which secured a 110 billion euro rescue half a year ago, is struggling to meet its deficit targets. Local newspaper Realnews quoted a senior IMF official on Saturday as saying the country’s loan repayment period could be extended by five years to make it easier to service its debt.
Such a move could meet strong public resistance in countries like Germany, which as Europe’s largest economy is shouldering the biggest share of the rescues.
(Additional reporting by Luke Baker, Timothy Heritage and Bate Felix in Brussels, Carmel Crimmins and Padraig Halpin in Dublin; writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Analysis: Thinking the unthinkable — a euro zone breakup
Thu, Nov 25 2010
By Noah Barkin
BERLIN (Reuters) – Contagion spreads from Ireland to Portugal and then to Spain, forcing European leaders to exhaust the $1 trillion bailout fund they set up only half a year ago to defend their ambitious single currency project.
Sniping within the 16-nation euro zone mounts and popular support for the euro erodes as German taxpayers rebel against a series of costly rescues and austerity fatigue in the bloc’s periphery reaches breaking point.
Eventually one or more countries decide enough is enough and break away or are forced out, reintroducing the national currencies they used before tying their fate to Europe’s audacious economic and monetary union.
Unthinkable only a few weeks ago, a small but growing number of experts now believe some version of this nightmare scenario could become a reality for the euro zone if policymakers fail to unite behind a more forceful strategy for saving the euro and address investor concerns about fiscal and economic imbalances.
Until now, doomsday predictions of a euro zone breakup have come mainly from Anglo-Saxon skeptics, some of whom saw the single currency bloc and its one-size-fits-all monetary policy as fatally flawed from the very start.
Over the summer, British economist Christopher Smallwood of consultants Capital Economics produced a 20-page paper entitled “Why the euro-one needs to break up” and U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini, alias Dr. Doom, predicted euro members would be forced to abandon the single currency.
But as the second wave of Europe’s debt crisis gathers pace, engulfing Ireland and heaping pressure on Portugal and Spain, a new group of doubters is emerging. They believe it may be difficult for the euro zone to hold in its current form, even if many think that remains the most likely scenario.
Some, like Financial Times commentator Gideon Rachman, say Germany could bolt if public frustration with bailouts mounts or if Berlin is unable to convince its euro partners to back its controversial plan for a new permanent rescue mechanism.
Dissident academics have challenged the legality of German participation in the Greek rescue in the Federal Constitutional Court. If they won, the impact on the euro could be devastating.
Others see a risk that economic divergence between Europe’s stable core and debt-saddled periphery could end up splintering the bloc into a two-tier “Euro-North” and “Euro-South.”
Still others believe Germany could engineer the expulsion of euro weaklings like Greece that it feels should never have been allowed in.
“I don’t think we’ll see a breakup of the euro and Germany returning to the deutschemark, but what we could see is a more homogeneous euro area purged of its low performers,” said Domenico Lombardi, a former executive board member at the IMF who is president of the Oxford Institute for Economic Policy.
HUGE POLITICAL WILL
These voices still represent a small minority and few of the skeptics are convinced the euro zone will fracture anytime soon.
Close observers of Europe, and the policymakers charged with defending the euro, dismiss the possibility of a breakup out of hand.
They cite the huge emotional as well as economic investment in the project, the political will behind it, and the pain, complexity and humiliation an exit would bring.
They point to the resilience of the euro itself, which has lost some 6 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in the past three weeks but remains a strong, stable currency by historical standards.
German Bundesbank president Axel Weber said on Wednesday there was “no way back” from the euro, reassuring his French audience that politicians would simply come up with more money if their $1 trillion safety net proved insufficient.
“My guess is that for quite a few years yet policymakers will do whatever they can to save this thing,” said Katinka Barysch, deputy director of the Center for European Reform.
“If you sit in London, it’s doomed. They don’t understand the political investment. They look at the bond spreads and think it’s doomed.”
Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said a breakup remained “unthinkable” and pointed to the bloc’s response to the Greek meltdown, in which, after repeated delays, it tore up the rulebook and took decisive action to stop the rot.
“If the euro were seriously at risk one could expect a much more forceful response,” he said. “You would see the ECB printing 500 euro notes and dropping them from helicopters before Spain was forced to default or could endanger the euro.”
FISCAL UNION A NON-STARTER
Still, if the recent turbulence has proven anything, it’s that “shock and awe” measures are unlikely to appease investors for long, nor change their view that the bloc is fundamentally flawed because of a steep competitiveness gap that only a closer fiscal union may be able to solve.
Going down this path is a non-starter for Germany, which has insisted instead that peripheral euro countries push through deflationary wage cuts and painful structural reforms to boost productivity, in line with its own successful economic model.
The Greeks, Irish and Portuguese are going along with these policies for now, but skeptics worry that in the years to come this strategy will be exposed as deeply flawed and that destabilizing imbalances within the bloc will re-emerge.
The OECD predicted last week that Germany’s current account surplus would rise back to peaks of around 7 percent of GDP by 2012. It forecast 2012 deficits for Greece and Portugal of 5.9 percent and 8.0 percent respectively, well down from their pre-crisis double-digit highs but still substantial.
The realization that markets may not allow the euro zone to muddle along making only minor tweaks to its fiscal rules, as it did in its first decade, appears to be sinking in among European policymakers.
On Wednesday, the finance minister of euro newcomer Slovakia described the risk of a euro zone breakup as “very real,” a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament the euro was in an “exceptionally serious” situation.
“This is a systemic crisis which requires a systemic response but we haven’t seen that so far,” said Lombardi. “This is being dealt with on a country by country basis, first Greece, now Ireland, and you can be sure they won’t be the last country.”
(editing by Paul Taylor)