Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Guzman have a recent piece at Project Syndicateabout the implications of Argentina’s default, or what they call “Griesafault.” In a nutshell, the piece blames U.S. Judge Griesa (Southern District of New York), rather than Argentine Republic (the debtor), for the default and argues that the court’s ruling “encourages usurious behavior, threatens the functioning of international financial markets, and defies the basic tenets of modern capitalism: insolvent debtors need a fresh start.”
Basically, the contract with the creditors is crystal clear. It does not allow for the Argentine state to weasel out of paying some creditors by striking new deals with some other creditors. It’s as simple as that. Now, I agree with Chris Westley that the Argentine government should just honestly announce that it has no plans to pay anyone back, and to make a clean default. That was a risk the creditors took. Indeed, while Stiglitz and Gusman claim that Griesa’s decision prevents a “fresh start” the only true “fresh start” here for the taxpayers of Argentina is a default.
Anything else is a twisting of a very simple legal contract to favor a relatively-powerful government over the interests of private investors. Argentina wants to get out of paying its debts either way, but if it honestly defaults, there will be a downside to its credit rating. On the other hand, if it can game the legal system so that it can avoid making good on its debts while still not legally be in default, then that’s so much better. And, of course, that’s what Stiglitz et al want. Endless spending with no consequences, ever.