Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Economics 11/05/2010: Exchequer figures - no real relief in sight

You have to feel for some of our desperate cheerleading squad of ‘analysts’ who toil for some of our banks and stock brokers. These folks are clutching at the straws trying to find something to cheer about. Case in point – latest data from the Irish Exchequer, which was heralded as showing ‘stabilisation’ and even ‘improvement’ in ‘funding conditions’ and ‘headline deficit’.

Putting aside the fact that most of these analysts have no real idea what these terms really mean (and in some cases, neither do I, for they mean preciously nothing in the real world of economics), the fault in their logic is an apparent one:

They say: ‘Irish exchequer receipts are finally coming closer to the Budget 2010 projections. Therefore, things are improving or stabilising.’

I say: ‘Statements like this are pure bollocks, folks. Just because DofF has finally caught up (somewhat) in its forecasts with reality, does not mean reality is getting any rosier.’

Here is the evidence that I am correct. Forget the Exchequer forecasts, and look at the actual data.
Chart above shows that:
  • Irish Exchequer tax revenue in April came in below the downward linear trend established since January 2008, which means that we are still returning tax receipts at below 2008-present average rates. Long term, things are still sliding down.
  • Irish Exchequer total receipts fared better than tax revenue, but that’s because the Exchequer has managed to squeeze more out of the likes of the semistates. Don’t be fooled – the semistates do not create their own money. This is just a hidden tax on us all.
  • Total expenditure, despite all the fanfare from the ‘analysts’ is heading up, and is now above the trend line again. Which (the trend line) is upward sloping. This means that long term trend is still rising for our public spending, and that we are on a seasonal upper push in public spending.
  • Thus, our Exchequer deficit has gone up in April, and it did so at a rate virtually identical to April 2009. Long term deficit is still upward moving and we are now above the long term trend once again.
Translated into cardiology, the patient now has an accelerating erratic pulse reaching beyond the norm, and continuously falling blood pressure. Just as Good Doctors Brian & Brian are talking about discharging...

To see if things are indeed improving (or stabilizing) as our ‘analysts’ suggest, let’s put back to back receipts and expenditures for the last three years in one chart:
Clearly, our total Exchequer receipts (and recall, these are boosted by abnormally higher non-tax revenue) are now below those for April 2008 and April 2009. Indeed, only once so far in 2010 have receipts rose to above corresponding monthly levels for 2008 and 2009 – back in March, when the Exchequer booked some of the backed receipts on VAT, VRT and Excise.
Chart above shows that the Exchequer did indeed achieve some reduction in spending in April 2010. But,
  1. Good ¾ of these savings came from reduced capital investment cuts
  2. Cumulative savings for the first 4 months of 2010 are so far €1.346 billion, implying an annualized rate of savings of €4.035 billion. Over the same time, cumulative losses in revenue were €990 million, implying an annualized loss in revenue of €2.969 billion.
  3. So we are looking at (omitting timing consideration) net savings on 2009 of €1.1 billion. This would be a reduction of just 4.3% out of an annual deficit for 2009, or related to GDP – a reduction of roughly 0.6% of GDP. In other words, all the ‘right decisions’ taken by this Government are currently looking like being able to reduce or 14.3% 2009 deficit to a massively ‘improved’ 13.7% deficit? And that’s assuming that the Anglo support this year will only impact the deficit by the same €1.5 billion as last year…

This miserably low level of achievement in our battle to restore Ireland to solvency is, of course, fully visible in the above chart, once one considers the Exchequer surplus performance.
Post a Comment