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ATHENS — The future of the European single currency — or at least Greece’s place in it — hinges on this straightforward question: When will the government here run out of money to pay its bills? And it’s one that defies an easy answer.

“Nobody knows,” says Nicholas Spiro, who crunches government finances for his bespoke London-based sovereign debt consultancy.

The problem starts with the hash that Greece has made of its public finances. Despite two bailouts and interventions by the “troika” (since renamed “the institutions”) of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank since the onset of the financial crisis in...

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