March 30, 2013
When I first heard about the Cyprus ritual execution bailout, I had thought that the widespread predictions that the island nation’s economy would contract by 20% to 30% over the next two years were off base.
I thought it would happen much faster, on the order of two to three months. An estimated 45% (mind you, 45%!) of the economy is banking, and almost all of that international banking. So if you generously assume 200% of the 900% of GDP was bona fide domestic assets (remember you have a lot of retirees), the other 7/9 goes poof. And that’s before you get to the fact that a lot of the services provided to foreign customers (the higher-end accounting and legal services) will have no future in a purely domestic banking business. So assume 90% of that 45% disappears in short order.
That much of an economy vaporizing is a state change. It’s not clear how Cyprus can regroup or recover even if the surplus international banking types could decamp. How do natives, whose money is presumably entirely in Cyprus (assuming it was not devastated by the hits to depositors at Laiki and Bank of Cyprus) emigrate with capital controls? How can they get their money out to make a new start somewhere else, if that’s their inclination? Again, while the Cypriot government initially said that capital controls would only be in place a matter of day, no expert believes that. They anticipate they’ll be in place for years to keep the remaining deposits from vanishing.