Our old friend Gonzalo is back with a new article.
|Yes, it’s a metaphor. Of what, I dunno.|
How Spain could exit the eurozone—a practical guide.
In late 2001, while everyone was in shock over 9/11, the Argentines were going through a little shock of their own: The “Corralito”.
Argentina was bankrupt, a product of a stagnant economy, rampant crony-corruption, and—most important of all—of having its currency fixed to the dollar. This currency peg had created a huge credit bubble, and of course massive capital outflows as a result, eventually leading to the depletion of foreign reserves by the government and an inability to raise more funds on the open markets.
In other words, sovereign bankruptcy.
Coupled to these problems, in the months leading up to the December 2001 crash, people were aware that the country was going bankrupt—so they were quickly converting all their Argentine pesos into dollars, and then sending this money to safe havens overseas.
To solve these problems of sovereign insolvency and massive capital flight, and at the same time to stabilize the situation, on December 1, 2001, the Argentine government imposed the infamous corralito—literally, the “little bullpen”: A series of measures designed to hold in capital and prevent it from fleeing the country, while devaluing the currency to a more realistic, sustainable rate of exchange.
As part of the corralito measures, the Argentine government froze all dollar-denominated bank accounts; converted those dollars into Argentine pesos on a one-to-one basis—that is, confiscated people’s dollars; limited all withdrawals in Argentine pesos to a weekly maximum of AR$250 (you read right: per week); and of course—the cherry on the sundae—it devalued the Argentine peso against the dollar.
The devaluation was at first a “mere” 40%—but shortly thereafter the Argentine peso was allowed to float: And it dropped to a rate of four to one against the dollar.
Literally millions of people lost their life-savings in one fell swoop. The local equity market tanked catastrophically, as did the local bond markets. People on a fixed income also got clobbered, as their pensions lost their purchasing power by 40% overnight—and then eventually by 75%.
Now, the situation in Europe today is virtually identical to that of Argentina in 2001: Overleveraged, with an insolvent banking sector, a flatlining economy and growing unemployment.
But of all the countries, Spain in particular is the biggest trouble.