Friday, September 25, 2009

Economics 25/09/2009: Don't believe 'our recovery plan' drivel

I like some of our brokers guys and gals, I really do – they are intelligent, ambitious, outwardly mobile in their outlook and hard working. They often spot the rat, although usually warn of its existence only privately. But the current Nama and Lisbon ‘debates’ are just too much for them to bear without assuming the usual 'hand in the sand' positions.


First Davy strategist was telling us all that everyone criticizing Nama is a ranting lunatic (at the very best) or a deceitful manipulator (at its worst). I obliged to reply here.


Now, Bloxham folks lined up to spout nonsense as well. Here is an example from today’s morning note: “A Yes vote [in Lisbon Referendum] would be seen as positive [one assumes by the markets] and would keep recovery plans on track ahead of the critical NAMA vote…”


I don’t give a damn how Bloxham modeled their assertion on the markets' assessment of an outcome of the Lisbon vote. The Wall Street Journal disagreed with them. Studies performed on sovereign default spreads in the Eurozone and bond spreads are inconclusive one way or the other. But one thing is certain when it comes to spotting a lie in their statement: an assertion that either Lisbon or Nama or both can ‘keep [Irish] recovery plans on track’.


This is a first class bullshit.


One minor point why this statement makes absolutely no sense is that the 'distance' between the Lisbon vote and Nama vote is going to take place within a couple of weeks there after, around October 14-16. If Irish economy is so critically sick that a difference of two weeks can push it off the track, I wonder if Lisbon vote would be of any priority for our stock brokers at all.


Now to a bigger lie in the above statement:


In order to keep plans on track, one must first have a plan. Or at least and inkling of one. A handful of morsels of thought saying: we want to do A to achieve B… and a short list of actions to be taken to get there. This is a starting point for any logical ‘keeping on track’. And, guess what, unless you are smoking the same stuff folks at Bloxham are, there are no plans. Let me repeat: there is no plan for an Irish economic recovery.


Fiscal crisis: this is Government’s own backyard, so we should expect that at the very least here the Cabinet has done some homework on getting a plan for recovery started. Nope. McCarthy Report and Taxation Commission Report – two key pieces of policy strategy are now largely binned by the Government. It is clear that there is no will in our Triumvirate to do anything serious about the expenditure side of the fiscal crisis. Even Bloxham guys would probably agree that in the current conditions there isn't anything new they can do on tax side of things either - short of turning us all into serfs. The fiscal stabilization ‘plan’ presented officially by DofF following the Supplementary Budget 2009 was a re-hashing of the exactly identical ‘plan’ from January 2009 which was rehashing the ‘plan’ from October 2008 Budget. All three were not realistic in their assumptions and expectations and all three had not a single year of declining nominal current public expenditure between 2008 and 2013.


Economic crisis (domestic economy): this Government produced only one strategy document on domestic economy. Don’t call it a policy document, for it is too vague and lofty to be a policy. Their vision of the future of Ireland Inc was, and remains, in a nutshell, a combination of lab coats with Petri dishes in hands growing thoughts and knowledge in the foreground and windmills spinning out green energy in the background. The ESB is in existence too, with new sparkling headquarters and, one assumes, smokestacks belching CO2 to offset green energy from the windmills. If Bloxham folks think this drivel passes for a plan, good luck to them. Domestic consumption is being killed off by reckless tax increases. Domestic investment is being kept below the water line by absurd taxes on capital, charges on capital-intensive activities and depressed savings of the households. Households are prevented by the Government from de-leveraging and will be facing increasing costs of mortgages and credit post-Nama due to banks hiking up charges and margins.


Economic crisis (external economy): apart from IDA’s advertising campaign launched last week by our unfortunate choice of a Tanaiste, there is no plan for improving competitiveness of Ireland Inc vis-à-vis foreign investors and domestic exporters. There are no reforms in the pipeline to help improve their operating costs, capital costs, costs of electricity, gas, water supply, costs of currency risks on sterling and dollar side, costs of labour, health & safety, costs of buying out trade unions into agreement not to derail investment and production, costs of state-controlled and regulated transportation, energy, communications, etc services.


Financial crisis: half-thought through idea of Nama is unlikely to do anything significant to improve flow of credit in this economy – I wrote on many occasions about the risk of capital being transferred out of the country and about banks’ incentives to pay down inter-bank lenders, plus about potentially zombie banks and development markets, dormant / dead property market and other potential downsides to Nama, so no need to repeat this here.

So, my dear friends at Bloxham, what is the exact ‘plan for recovery’ that we will 'keep on track' if we vote Yes to Lisbon and/or Yes to Nama? Name one, please…

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