As someone who has watched in frustration as both our Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Department of Finance have consistently maintained that our debt:GDP % is “sustainable” on the basis that it will eventually come down, it came as a welcome, though surprising, relief last night to hear Brian Hayes, junior minister for finance at Brendan Howlin’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, say that the debt was “unsustainable”. Minister Hayes was speaking on RTE’s Prime Time current affairs programme and his statement was a bald “our debt is not sustainable” This contrasts with, for example, the view of the Department of Finance which in May 2012 produced a document “The Irish Economy in Perspective” from which the graph above is extracted, along with the official view that our debt was “sustainable”
To me, this was a “game changer” of “seismic” proportions, because up to now, the official line…
It’s not clear that it does. I’m not sure it’s a seismic (Enda Kenny) or massive (Eamonn Gilmore) deal. And it happened because of Spanish and Italian pressure.
So far as we can see at present there are three parts to this. The Spanish banks will be recapped directly from the EFSF and later the ESM (assuming there is one…) which will not have formal super senior status but will be more like the IMF and have quasi senior status. The ECB will get an enhanced supervisory role. Crucially for Ireland the deal also suggests that similar cases will be treated similarly. But there is no explicit retrospection.
We have spent, in very rough terms, 30b on Anglo promissory notes, 20b from the then National Pension Reserve Fund in direct bank recaps and about 12-14b more in other recaps, bailouts etc which forms part of the explicit borrowing now subsumed under the troika bailout..
We will not get that 20b back. It’s gone. We might, but it’s not clear, get a deal on the prom notes, but the mood music is that at best this quasi state debt will be converted to very much state debt albeit repayable in a manner that costs less per annum than the 3b cost of prom note redemption. We might or might not get a deal on the 12b, but there is no “Irish state bond for recapping banks” out that can be redeemed. So this would have to be dealt with as part of a general state debt not bank debt deal, which seems not to be o n the cards.
Following up on my blogpost today and just in time for the sunday business and talking heads shows, some questions spring to mind on the Fiscal Compact. Feel free to pose these to relevant politicians or better yet to answer them below..
How would the existence of the fiscal compact have prevented the Irish economic collapse, given that we would (debt levels apart) have been pretty much within the terms of the criteria? Our problem on the fiscal side was that we were badly balanced in terms of the makeup of the tax base and clientilist in our expenditure.
How exactly will a structural deficit be estimated, given that there is no consistent method for so doing and that it is dependent on in essence a backcast of what the economy might have been at were it growing at capacity? What models and approved by whom will be used to estimate the economic dynamics? What if the ESRI say we are in balance, the ECB say we are not, the OECD say maybe, and the IMF say we might be if their model is right…? Who arbitrates..?
Given that the implied dynamics of the fiscal compact on sovereign debt are that it will radically shrink, what are the knockon effects and how will they be handled in terms of pension and investment funds which will now have to either move to other low risk assets with the danfer of igniting bubbles therein or take more risk with the consequent dangers to pension funding (private and public).?
Would the existence of the FC have prevented the taking on of the bank debts, in 2008, given the effect which that had on the fiscal side? If this is so how can the FC be squared with the evident desire by the ECB to not see banks fail?
Given that if you exceed the terms of the Fiscal Compact you will be fined up to 0.1% GDP, will that not lead to a exceeding-fine-exceeding spiral?
Given that in general Fiscal policy is taken as the taxation and expenditure elements of government as they interact with the economy, and that this is in essence a state level spending side only treaty, when can we expect common movement on either state level taxation or community level transfer payments to offset the pro cyclicality of this pact ?
If this is ‘a vote on the euro’ what mechanism wil be used to remove us from the euro zone? What treaty, what section?
Given that the government have already stated that the talk of a second bailout (aka being in the ESM) is ‘ludicrous’, and that the only sanction mentioned in the FC is not being able to access same ESM if one does not sign up, what is the downside of saying ‘hmm, no, not quite what we need thanks’?