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Life imitates art, as the saying goes. And its seems that classic album «Brothers in Arms» by U.K. soft rockers Dire Straits appears to hold the key to understanding Greece’s many economic and debt crises, according to an analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management.
In a note published this week, Aberdeen’s Pan Euro Fixed Income Investment Manager, Thomas Laskey, remarked that the track listing of the LP album resonate with Greece’s tortuous economic situation.
But do the lyrics really reveal whether Greece and the euro zone can be «Brothers at Arms» again?
«Money for Nothing»
Greece has been the recipient of two bailout programs worth a combined 240 billion euros ($263.1 billion) with the programs – and requisite reforms upon which aid relies – overseen by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank and European Commission.
Greece’s euro zone counterpart, Germany, has been one of the biggest financial contributors to Greece’s bailout, a factor that has created an acrimonious relationship between the countries’ governments and its citizens.
Like the Dire Straits’ song, Aberdeen’s Laskey noted that «the popular German view of their relationship with Greece revolves around the seemingly never-ending financial support they have begrudgingly extended to the country.»
It is easy to see why Germans think the Greeks are irresponsible, Laskey notes. «No matter to German Finance Minister Schaeuble that creditors who make bad loans should shoulder at least as much blame as borrowers who accept them.»
«The Man’s Too Strong»
One of the leading characters to emerge from the Greek saga over its bailout is fiery finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, a Marxist academic and economist thrust into the limelight when the leftwing Syriza party won a snap election in January.
Elected on its anti-austerity message, Syriza’s leader and Greek Prime Minsiter Alexis Tsipras and right-hand man Varoufakis, became regular faces for their combative stance during negotiations with creditors.
So much so that Tsipras took the step of removing Varoufakis from the frontline of negotiations in order for talks to make progress.
«Entrenched positions, however logical, can therefore be detrimental and ineffective,» Laskey noted, adding that «Varoufakis found this out to his cost as his robust approach led to him being bumped off the front line.»
«Your Latest Trick»
«Accounting ‘tricks’ – not unheard of in Greece – have been employed to exploit all potential sources of cash,» Laskey wrote, alluding to Greece’s disputed eligibility to join the euro zone in the first place.
Greece has become increasingly inventive in making ends meets, most recently using its IMF reserves allocation to pay an IMF debt – essentially, robbing Peter to pay Peter.
Greece’s financial woes are coming to a head with doubts growing that the country will be able to make a 300 million euro repayment due to the IMF on June 5, let alone numerous other repayments due to the Fund and ECB over the summer.
As Greece potentially approaches calamity, expectations that it could default on its debt and crash and burn out of the euro zone have risen.
Officials in the euro zone worry that if they let Greece off the hook in terms of a debt haircut or restructuring, it could set a dangerous precedent for other countries. But Laskey said compromise was better than nothing.
«The risk of creating incentives for repeat ‘offences’ do not justify causing calamity,» he warned.
«Keeping the show on the road trumps almost everything in the end, and Europe has the capacity to do so. Aside from anything else, there is no one in Europe with a mandate to pull the plug on Greece.»
«Walk of Life»
Rather than wasting time wringing your hands over the current crisis in Greece and its fraught relations with its neighbors, Laskey notes that crisis can be a catalyst for change.
«Could this be another episode that will be filed under the heading «never let a good crisis go to waste»?,» Laskey asks in his note.
«Previous major institutional reforms have tended to follow crisis periods, in the euro zone at least. It is worth remembering that disagreements are not intrinsically ‘bad’ – they are usually necessary for change.»
The episode could well contribute to improving the institutional structure and governance of the euro zone, he noted, and even better, «Europeans could be ‘Brothers in Arms’ after all.»
– By CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt