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European Troika Sets Greek Bailout Into Motion; Hamas-Israeli Prisoner Swap May Free Gilad Shalit

Aired October 11, 2011 - 14:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: The troika will pay out. Will Slovakia pay in? The voting on the bailout fund.

Ukraine's tough sentence for a former PM prompts a tough message from the EU.

And tonight we are going for growth with "The Boss". Our two executives are thinking big.

I'm Richard Quest. Yeah, I mean business.

Good evening.

Greece has got the green light and now it could get the next $10.9 billion slice of its bailout funds within weeks, by November. And that would certainly avoid any immediate default on its debts and loans. The troika says it has drawn up agreements with the Greek government to get finances, in their words, back on track. The plan still needs approval from European officials and the IMF. And the troika's message, the ECB, the European Commission, and the IMF, it contains stark warnings about its economic future.

If you join me over in the library, you'll see what I mean. The core point from the troika, the IMF, the ECB, and European Commission, it says Greece, a deeper recession that has been taking place over the last few months, few years, in fact. And no growth is expected to be seen until 2013. The recovery will begin in 2013. Now, that would be at least three years of solid recession that the Greek people have had to endure.

So whatever the troika says, and however much this is about debts and finances, the Greek people themselves are bearing the brunt. The troika said that on deficit reduction Greece would miss its 2011 target and further action would be needed for 2012. But here is the interesting thing. They specifically said any further action by Greece should be on the expenditure side. In other words, cut backs, because that would be pro growth. Rather than on the revenue side, which would be higher taxes. And they said when it comes to structural reform, these two key words are important, "uneven progress" has been seen on that, and privatizations.

The Greek finance minister described it as balanced, positive and practical. And as he came to consider what had happened, he said they would move further and faster on those structural reforms issues.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, he is warning that the debt crisis has become what he calls, "systemic". Speaking as chairman of the European systemic risk for today, Mr.-or President Trichet, said that in recent months sovereign stress has moved to smaller scale countries. And now what is clearly happening is that it expanding even further. He pointed to European governments showing signs of stress and volatile bond markets, volatile equity markets and the like, as a spreading sign of the disease.

Trichet's warning, coming as it did, to the European parliament, said that national governments had to implement swift action if they were going to solve the problem so far. And he actually warned that further delays would make the situation worse, in his words, "they would aggravate the situation.

So this is the situation. We have Trichet warning of a very serious systemic risk. We have the troika saying that they will give Greece more money, or they are approving more money. And the question for Ken Rogoff, professor at Harvard University, and former chief economist at the IMF, the question for Ken Rogoff was whether Greece was now still in danger of a major restructuring.


KEN ROGOFF, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS & PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Obviously not. I mean, I think, Greece is going to end up paying 30 cents on the dollar unless Germany decides to pay all of that for 40 and 50 years.

This is, really they-it's not part of a solution. You need to have restructuring in Greece, Portugal, possibly Ireland. And put a firewall everywhere else. The fact that they are still bailing out Greece means they haven't figured out what to do next.

QUEST: And that is the process that is underway. We have President Barroso with his recapitalization plan tomorrow. We have Merkel, Sarkozy, who don't agree on much, but say there is a plan coming. They are preparing the ground, aren't they?

ROGOFF: Yes, they are but the question is will it go far enough? Will they be able to make enough changes? Will Chancellor Merkel be able to go as far as she needs to go? Or will she only be able to go as far as public opinion lets her go? And I think there is a lot of-Sarkozy faces the problem that the French banks are very powerful and they don't want to acknowledge any default in Greece. Because that would show that they have very little capital or are bankrupt.

QUEST: So, as we look for this three week period, two to three week period, up to the G20, where all these plans are going to come, a comprehensive plan, comprehensive strategy, everything seems to be comprehensive these days, isn't it?

ROGOFF: Well, I think it is pretty clear that they will do something that will significantly cheer up markets for a few months But I'm very skeptical that they are anywhere near having a truly comprehensive plan that has to include, I think, a constitutional change in Europe. That has to include a fiscal union. That has to include some kind of regulatory union. And that probably need to take a hard look at which countries can remain in this harder Eurozone.

QUEST: When Trichet, today, says that there is a systemic dimension, time is running out, national governments must deal with it, who is listening to the president of the ECB?

ROGOFF: Well, I think they are all listening to them, but unfortunately they are listening to their electorate, too. And as I said, you know, the debate in the public is not in the same place as among the elite. And I think they just haven't take the tough decisions.

Fundamentally, there are some countries, there are some cities, in Europe, that are insolvent. And it is not reasonable to think that they are going to repay their debts. There are others, like the Italian banking system, where I think it is a more traditional run. It is a liquidity problem. And you need to back them. It isn't a clear line everywhere, but they can't even seem to draw a line everywhere. But they can't even seem to draw a line where it is clear.

QUEST: And yet as we look at the economic numbers we had some better economic numbers out of the United States. The German export numbers were extraordinary, bearing in mind the state of the rest of the Eurozone. So economies seem to be better in spite, or despite everything?

ROGOFF: Well, they are trudging a long. This is-we're hardly in a boom here. We are in a long period of slow growth that will probably last for a very long time, especially as long as these debt problems, mortgages in the United States, sovereign debt problems in Europe are still hanging over us, and until we see them dealt with. But it is not necessarily a panic, a hysteria, a deep darker turn in the recession, in the great contraction that we are seeing. But it is-the downside risk is materially greater than if we might have a sudden boom.

QUEST: Ken, wonderful as always.

CNN with two pieces of breaking news coming to the network; we are waiting for a news conference from the U.S. Justice Department about an alleged terror plot. It is said to involve the assassination of the Saudi ambassador, and reportedly had the backing the Iranian government. We will bring that news conference to you. It is expected to be with the U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder. And when we see that, you see the podium, as soon as that becomes live we will see-we'll talk to that in a moment.

Also, a possible prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas. One of the prisoners in question is Gilad Shalit. And Israeli soldier who was captured and he has been held by Hamas, in Gaza, for the last 5 years. Let's talk about that with our Jerusalem Bureau Chief Kevin Flowers, who joins me on the line.

Kevin, we'll talk about this until that news conference begins in Washington.

First of all, we understand there is an Israeli cabinet meeting taking place at the moment. What more can you tell me?

KEVIN FLOWERS, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, there are a couple of things going on at this point, Richard. We know for a fact that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a special emergency cabinet meeting. His office saying this has been called to discuss the possibility of a deal for the release of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Now Gilad Shalit was an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas and other militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip, in the summer of 2006. So he has been held captive in the Gaza Strip, presumably for the last five years. And what we are looking at is a potential deal here that would see-

QUEST: Kevin, I'm going to interrupt you please. Let's go straight away to Washington and the news conference of the U.S. attorney general.