It has been reported that Greece is considering leaving the euro and re-establishing its own currency*.
More than a year ago, I argued that being part of the euro seriously exacerbated Greece’s economic woes, and for the reasons given there, I do think that re-establishing sovereignty over its currency is in Greece’s interests in the long run. Nevertheless, it would be a painful process exiting the monetary union.
To begin with, there are all sorts of practical complexities. The switch to the euro was an enormous project, years in the planning and to switch back would require major logistical and systems changes for banks and businesses across the country. Mind you, the work involved may act as a stimulus to employment! The other challenge, is that Greece still has significant quantities of public and private debt denominated in euro. Inevitably, there would be defaults and restructuring of this debt. That, combined with the fact that the new currency would be launched by a country known around the world to be in dire economic straits, would result in ongoing weakness of the new currency. While a weak currency would have some advantages, making Greece’s exports far more competitive than they have any hope of being while the country retains the euro, imports would become very expensive and there would be significant inflationary pressure. The problems Iceland has faced since its default provide a useful comparison, although Greece does have the advantage of a broader domestic production base.
So, while an exit from the euro would be an unpleasant experience, it is probably just the medicine that patient requires.
* Thanks to @magpie for drawing this article to my attention.