Nations gird their loins for Greek chaos

Most of the developed world are taking pre-emptive steps to avoid any contagion from a crisis in Greece if that country votes on Sunday for an anti-bailout government.


The threat of turmoil sweeping across global markets next week if Greece's election prompts a panicky flight of money from the euro zone has policymakers from Beijing to Zurich preparing to protect their currencies and economies from an unwelcome influx.

In China, key agencies including the central bank, have been asked to come up with similar plans, sources said last week. Measures may include keeping the yuan steady and stepping up policies to stabilize the economy, they said.

Swiss National Bank President Thomas Jordan is among the most vociferous, dangling the threat on Thursday of imposing capital controls to stop the Swiss franc from soaring as a result of investors seeking the currency's relative safety.

"The SNB will not tolerate this," he said bluntly.

Switzerland is not alone. The Bank of Japan is prioritizing market stability, according to one source, with economists saying the bank's main concern would be to stop the yen taking off.

Intervention would be a likely response should the yen rise too high for the authorities' taste. With G20 leaders meeting in Mexico next week there is even speculation of a coordinated global response although no evidence of that has emerged so far.

India has a range of crisis management groups within the government set up to deal with euro zone-triggered financial stress, according to Kaushik Basu, the finance minister's chief economic adviser.

Central banks in western countries - including the US - stand ready to pour cash into the credit system if signs of a freeze up emerge.

But no one knows if a Greek crackup would occur in a flash or play out over several days or weeks. The flash scenario would be most damaging which is why the Greek government is trying its best to avoid it. But the psychology of the market is such that any plans made by governments to address the contagion, could very well make things worse - thus bringing about the very thing they are trying to avoid.