What happens if Greece exits the eurozone?

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Will Greece Leave the Eurozone?

(NYMag) -- Following Greek voters' overwhelming rejection on Sunday of a bailout deal offered by its creditors, the long-feared possibility that Greece will exit the eurozone seems more likely than ever. With Greek banks closed and the nation facing several high-stakes deadlines over the coming weeks, European leaders are now scrambling to reach an agreement that will allow Greece to continue using the euro. The so-called "Grexit" is often referred to as a doomsday scenario, but there's actually little consensus on what it would entail. And while some experts say abandoning the euro would be catastrophic for Greece and cause serious problems for the entire European Union, some argue that its actually the smartest way to solve the Greek debt crisis once and for all.

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Greece after the referendum
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What happens if Greece exits the eurozone?
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 13: Pensioners talk to bank staff as they wait to collect their pensions outside a National Bank of Greece branch in Kotzia Square on July 13, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Eurozone leaders have reportedly made an 'agreement' on the Greek debt crisis in Brussels. After lengthy talks EU President Donald Tusk tweeted that a bailout programme was 'all ready to go'. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold a poster against the austerity policy of Germany prior to a special session of the parliament Bundestag on negotiations with Greece for a new bailout in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A woman burns the flag of the ruling party Syriza, surrounded by journalists, in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, during an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a no to any agreement with the creditors on July 13 , 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Leftist protester holds a greek flag in front of the Greek parliament as they take part an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a 'NO' to any agreement with the creditors on July 13, 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal Monday on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro, forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
People read newspaper headlines in central Athens on July 13, 2015. Greece reached a desperately-needed bailout deal with the eurozone on July 13 after marathon overnight talks, in a historic agreement to prevent the country crashing out of the European single currency. The country's leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to tough reforms after 17 hours of gruelling negotiations in return for a three-year bailout worth up to 86 billion euros ($96 billion), Greece's third rescue programme in five years. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A elderly man In a wheelchair waits with other pensioners outside a national bank branch to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Monday, July 13, 2015. A Eurozone summit has reached a tentative agreement with Athens on a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat of financial collapse in Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A bank employee distributes tag queue positions to elderly people to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Monday, July 13, 2015. A Eurozone summit has reached a tentative agreement with Athens on a bailout program that includes “serious reforms” and aid, removing an immediate threat of financial collapse in Greece. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man passes in front of "NO" referendum posters in central Athens, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Greece has another chance Sunday to convince skeptical European creditors that it can be trusted to enact wide-ranging economic reforms which would safeguard its future in the common euro currency. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A presidential guard, right, stands guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier as riot police officers guard one of the entrances to the parliament during a demonstration of supporters of the no vote in central Athens, Sunday, July 12, 2015. Greece has another chance Sunday to convince skeptical European creditors that it can be trusted to enact wide-ranging economic reforms which would safeguard its future in the common euro currency. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man holds a tag queue position as he waits next to others pensioners outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Friday, July 10, 2015. Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will seek backing for a harsh new austerity package from his party Friday to keep his country in the euro — less than a week after urging Greeks to reject milder cuts in a referendum. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pro-Euro demonstrator is seen behind a European Union flag during a rally in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, July 9, 2015. Hopes that Greece can get a rescue deal that will prevent a catastrophic exit from the euro rose on Thursday, after key creditors said they were open to discussing how to ease the country's debt load, a long-time sticking point in their talks. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pensioner leans against the main gate of the national bank of Greece as he waits to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Greek soldiers leave the ancient Acropolis hill, after they raised the Greek flag, in Athens, on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of euro zone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this photo taken on Saturday, July 11, 2015, Mary Cromba, left, owner of a beachside restaurant is seen with her employees, as she prepares to add paper in the cashier machine in the village of Psatha about 65km (40 miles) west of Athens. The meal sales tax clause in the bailout proposal considered Sunday by European leaders would boost it from 13 percent to 23 percent, while hotels would see room sales taxes rise from 6.5 percent to 13 percent. (AP Photo/Spyros Tsakiris)
A butcher makes calculations inside his shop in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 9, 2015. With a deadline just hours away to come up with a detailed economic reform plan, Greece requested a new three-year rescue from its European partners Wednesday as signs grew its economy was sliding toward free-fall without an urgently needed bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man stands-in front of a discount shop that reads in Greek " you give a little you take a lot" in Athens, on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man sells items in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A woman pays at a market in central Athens, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads Tuesday to Brussels, where he will try to use a bailout referendum victory to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Red spray paint covers a French-language Bank of Greece sign to read 'Bank of Merkel' in reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned Monday, saying he was told shortly after Greece's decisive referendum result that some other eurozone finance ministers and the country's other creditors would appreciate his not attending the ministers' meetings. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A homeless sleeps at the entrance of a closed store with posters reading ''No'' in central Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Homeless sleep on the ground in central Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Needy people pray before eating at the Church-run Galini charity's soup kitchen in central Athens on Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A construction worker carries a wooden plank near a board with the Greek flag that reads in Portuguese: "I love you Greece, because of the courage against the imperialism!", in Lisbon, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday's referendum in which the majority of voters said "no" to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. The board also reads in Greek: "No", in reference to Sunday's referendum. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Needy people eat at the Church-run Galini charity's soup kitchen in central Athens on Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A pensioner holds a tag queue position as he lines up before entering into a bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A bank employee distributes tag queue positions to elderly people to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
People wait to enter into the national bank of Greece in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s finance minister has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A bank employee speaks to elderly people before allowing them to enter into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Elderly people argue with a bank worker as they wait to be allowed into the bank to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned following Sunday’s referendum in which the majority of voters said “no” to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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Most agree that in the short-term, going off the euro would lead to more hardships for the Greek people. Dr. Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London and former adviser to the International Monetary Fund, told Australia's ABC News that transitioning back to the drachma (or a currency with a new name) would likely entail "months of confusion, hectic negotiations," as there's no legal roadmap for how the exit would work. He continued:

Then the currency that comes into existence under these circumstances - while Greece is in deep recession, while capital is flowing out of the country, while the government has lost a lot of economic credibility - a currency that comes into existence under these circumstances would likely be extremely weak, have high inflation, and that would mean that prices for oil, food would be very expensive.

Last week Standard & Poor's said the Grexit would cause "severe" consequences for Greece's economy. The credit ratings agency predicted that soon after exiting the eurozone, the country's real GDP would drop 25 percent, and in four years it would still be 20 percent lower than it would have been. It also said unemployment, which is already above 25 percent, would increase past 29 percent and only come down gradually. Others predict Greeks would see a 40 percent drop in their purchasing power, Greek businesses that borrowed in foreign markets could go bankrupt, and imports may need to be rationed. Plus, such tremendous economic problems could spark political upheaval.

READ MORE: The absolute moron's guide to the Greek debt crisis

However, many believe that in the long-term, reintroducing the drachma will allow Greece to reinvigorate its economy. Economist Joseph Gagnon of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington wrote this week that while the Greek government is facing massive challenges, if it plays its cards right, "the Greek economy could begin to grow within six months and accelerate strongly over the next two or three years."

Writing in Forbes, University of Georgia economics professor Jeffrey Dorfman arguedthat Greece and the rest of the E.U. could negotiate a "Grexit" that's a win for both sides:

The idea here is simple. Greece leaves the eurozone (a Grexit) and returns to the drachma. Greece declares one drachma is worth one euro. They then print about $300 billion worth of drachmas (it would really just be electronic money for the most part, so the mechanics are simple). They use about $260 billion to pay off the ECB and IMF, redeeming all their bailout funds and technically avoiding a default as long as the ECB and IMF play along. Greece then uses the remaining $40 billion or so to recapitalize its banks so they can reopen and depositors can withdraw their funds freely. Greece's remaining debt load is manageable with their current fiscal policy, so no major tax increases or austerity should be needed.

Dorfman added that to avoid inflation, the ECB and IMF just need to leave the drachmas in their vaults, "Then the money supply is only increased slightly and there will likely be only a moderate devaluation of the drachma, leading to 'acceptable' inflation considering the alternatives." Dennis J. Snower, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, described a different scenario, but agreed that returning to the drachma could mean a "new beginning" for every nation that uses the euro:

Under this program, creditor countries would write off Greece's debts, on the condition that the country left the eurozone voluntarily. This would give Greece the opportunity to start afresh from outside the monetary union: it could restructure its economy without outside interference, and could be ready to re-enter the eurozone at a later point under new conditions – this time without false statistical pretenses or unrealistic expectations.

Such an option would allow the Greek government to make a new start in stimulating competition, fighting corruption, and otherwise building a basis for long-term growth. This would not be easy, but it would no longer be a process that Greece finds humiliating and creditor countries find exasperating.

As for the rest of the eurozone, "Its member states would accept that monetary union is impossible without fiscal and structural coordination." Michael G. Jacobides, a professor at the London Business School, counters in the Harvard Business Review that Greece needs to cling to the E.U. to prevent further catastrophe:

The bottom line is that away from the EU, Greece will slip ever further into an economic abyss, characterized by rising income inequality and poverty. This is where most economists, who consider the upsides (for Greece) of a Grexit, have it wrong. The country's failings are structural, not just fiscal. Default and Grexit will only aggravate those structural failings, not only immediately, but also in the medium-term. And having a failed state in such a pivotal geographic location as Greece's poses significant geopolitical risks.

At one point there were fears that a Grexit would send shockwaves through the world's financial markets, but over the past few years the E.U. has taken steps to lower the contagion risk. Ironically, some are arguing that the E.U. should be most worried about Greece succeeding on the drachma. On Monday a New York Times editorial said "European leaders have made the crisis worse by their mismanagement," and now it's their responsibility to find a way to keep eurozone together – if not for Greece, for their own sake:

A Greek exit would also do untold damage to the credibility of the euro and the European project by making clear that any country's membership in the eurozone could be revoked. That might not be an immediate concern for other economically weaker countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain, given that yields on their government bonds increased only modestly after the Greek vote. But the specter of more exits from the eurozone would undoubtedly make it hard for European leaders to respond to future crises.


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