Two centuries of Greek debt crises highlight the pitfalls of relying on external financing. Since its independence in 1829, the Greek government has defaulted four times on its external creditors – with striking historical parallels. Each crisis is preceded by a period of heavy borrowing from foreign private creditors. As repayment difficulties arise, foreign governments step in, help to repay the private creditors, and demand budget cuts and adjustment programs as a condition for the official bailout loans. Political interference from abroad mounts and a prolonged episode of debt overhang and financial autarky follows.
We conclude that these cycles of external debt and dependence are a perennial theme of Greek history, as well as in other countries that have been “addicted” to foreign savings.