Monday, 13 July 2015

How should Greece manage the biggest change in a generation?

The latest on the story of the Greek economic crisis is that they aren't leaving the Eurozone. But that hasn't stopped us speculating on what would need to happen if they did.

Ververidis Vasilis /
We think the first order of business would be to organise re-denomination. The new Greek central bank would need to set a suitable exchange rate for Euros to neo-drachma (or whatever they end up using) - presumably one-to-one. Then they'd need to start the printing presses, both figuratively and literally. There are nearly 3000 bank branches in Greece that handle cash. They'd need cash, and quickly, to distribute to Greece's population of 11 million. After that, they could change things like vending machines (which would need to be reconfigured for new coins) more slowly.

Next, they'd need to determine what, if anything, they intend to repay to their creditors, and when. While the Greeks will obviously be intending to devalue the new currency as quickly as possible, there is the risk of hyper-inflation and long-term economic depression if they're reckless.

And they'd need capital controls to prevent a bank run - we already saw that a couple of weeks ago when the Greek government closed its banks for a week and restricted withdrawals (still in place as of this writing). All told, it's a lot to organise, but they managed to convert from the drachma to the Euro back in 2001, so it's obviously possible.

Change management on this scale is expensive, but, for all its economic troubles, Greece can't afford to cut corners here. It will only lead to disaster further down the line.

Our consultant, Artur Oganov, said, 'It's always a big thing to change currency - even if a lot more money is electronic now. We think the Greeks should have a plan for 'Grexit', just in case. It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. The plan must have clear goals, a proper legal framework and be prepared for every possibility. For me the big question is how long should the capital controls last before they devalue?'

If you're planning your own smaller-scale change, give us a call and we'll see how we can help.

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