To put minds at rest: Australia is not going to be the new Greece


Sadly, some seem not to have grasped the specific problem that is powering the Greek nightmare. Given this failure to understand the underlying cause, we get predictions like this:

Commodities crash could turn Australia into a new Greece

In more detail:

The respected Australian economist Stephen Koukoulas recently wrote of the dangers that escalating levels of foreign debt could present for future generations. Could a prolonged period of depressed commodity prices even turn Australia into Asia’s version of Greece, with China being its banker of last resort instead of the European Union.

No, simply no.

It's true that the Lucky Country has been very lucky, being the major commodity supplier into China as that nation actually built a nation. And that growth is slowing, the prices of those commodities are falling and so the terms of trade that Oz faces are deteriorating. But this will not, cannot, turn that country into another basket case like Greece.

For Australia has its own currency: the one thing that Greece does not have an which is causing that economic grief.

So, imagine that commodities, the major exports, do decline in price, and stay down in price. Yes, Australia as a whole is thus somewhat poorer. And it's likely that Australian wages relative to the rest of the world will therefore need to decline. Greece had to do this by making sure that 50% of young people, 25% of all people, were thrown out of work so that wages would indeed decline. Both Keynes and Friedman were adamant on this point, that nominal wages are sticky downwards and when those two agree you'd better pay attention. Australia, of course, does not need to do that. They can, as Friedman pointed out was the sensible way to do this, depreciate the currency instead. Relative wages change but no one has to be thrown on the scrapheap to achieve it. Indeed, as the value of those export commodities declines the currency will fall quite naturally, causing our price change without any action at all.

That is, Australia simply will not be the new Greece because Australia has its own currency. As Greece, obviously, does not.