Saying that the Greek debt crisis is “primarily a European issue,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin encouraged International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde last week “to hold to its hard line on Greece, keeping it out of a third bailout for the foreseeable future.”
That is exactly the right advice.
As The Heritage Foundation noted in its “2017 Global Agenda for Economic Freedom,” the IMF should avoid making any new loans to a country that has unsustainable debt and no realistic plan to get out of it.
It was the IMF’s abandonment of that policy—known as the Exceptional Access Framework—in 2010 at the beginning of the Greek debt crisis that cleared the way for a fresh round of morally hazardous loans that bailed out big European banks. These bailouts left Greece even further in debt and still in need of debt restructuring and fundamental economic and political reforms.
Congress re-instated the IMF’s Exceptional Access Framework in 2015. It is good to see the Trump administration already insisting on this rules-based approach in the case of Greece.
The U.S. government should encourage other major IMF donor nations to join it in sending strong and unwavering signals to the world that the IMF’s resources are not, in fact, unlimited. IMF loans are, at most, a firebreak to support and stabilize an economy in the short term, not a way to keep kicking the can down the road.
The implication is clear: The European Union will have to find another way to resolve the Greek debt crisis, one without new IMF resources.
James M. Roberts is the research fellow in freedom and growth at The Heritage Foundation's Center for International Trade and Economics. Roberts' primary responsibility is to produce the Index of Economic Freedom, an influential annual analysis of the economic climate of countries throughout the world.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.