Friday, July 2, 2010

Economics 2/7/10: Exchequer's sick(ly) arithmetic

Exchequer statement is out today. As usual, for the sake of the markets and the media - right before the closing of the working day. It's either a pint with friends, a dinner with the family, or dealing with Brian Lenihan's problems. Forgive me, the first two came ahead of the third one.

Mind you, not because Mr Lenihan's problems are getting any lighter. They are not. Second month running, tax receipts are under-performing the target. Sixth month in a row, the only saving grace to the entire shambolic spectacle of 'deficit corrections' is the dubious (in virtue) savaging of capital investment spending.

Let's take a look at the details: there was €80 million shortfall in June tax take. All tax heads receipts came roughly in line with the DofF monthly plans, except for income taxes (off €84 million behind expectations).

To hell with 'expectations', though, look at the reality
Tax receipts dipped below down-sloping long term trend line. Which is seasonally consistent. The deviation from the trend line was small, compared to previous 2 years. These are the good news. Total spending is below the flat trend line and roughly seasonally consistent. Given the scale of capital budget savaging deployed this year, this is not the good news. You see, it appears that the Government has back-loaded capital spending while front-loading capital receipts. If that is true, expect serious explosion (hat tip to PMD) of deficit in Autumn. If not,m and the cuts to capital budgets are running at the real rate observed so far, expect mass-layoffs by late Autumn. Either way - things are not really as good as they appear on the surface (more on this 'capital' effect later).

and back to the receipts: H1 2010 so far, income tax receipts are down €227 million cumulatively. Other tax heads are running €76 million above plan. Vat is actually improving, backed by falling value of the Euro and serious cuts in prices by retailers. There is a tendency to attribute this to 'improved retail sales', but in reality most of this 'improvement' is simply due to better weather and smaller savings margins to be had in Newry. Not exactly a graceful cheering point for Ireland Inc... but let's indulge:
€1 billion cut was applied to the expenditure side. Or so they say... Deficit on current account side is now €8.045 billion, up on 2009 €7.212 billion. Vote capital expenditure is down from €1.844 to €2.870 billion. But, wait, in 2009 (well, after Eurostat caught the Government red-handed mis-classifying things) there was €6.023 billion drain on Exchequer 'capital' side from Nama and the banks. This time around, the Exchequer posted only €500 million worth of banks measures on its balance sheet. Something fishy is going on? You bet. Anglo money are not in the Exchequer figures. At least not in six months to June. So things are looking brilliantly on the upside.
Hmm... but what about Anglo? and AIB? BofI? All the banks cash that flowed since January? Well, for now, this remains off-balance sheet. And, there's missing (we actually spent it last year forward) NPRF contribution. Were these two things to be counted, as they were in 2009, the true extent of cuts, the Government has passed through would be revealed. And, fortunately, we can do this much. Take a look at what our cumulative balance looks like to-date, compared with 2008 and 2009.

First - absent adjustments for the banks:
And now, with banks stuff added in:
Notice how all the improvement in deficit to-date gets eaten up by the banks? Well, this is simply so because when we are talking about the improvement on 2009, we are really comparing apples and oranges. Ex-banks in both years, there is virtually no improvement. Cum-banks both years - there is no improvement. But Minister's statement today compares cum-banks 2009 against ex-banks 2010...

Net voted expenditure by departments is running €141 million below expectations for June. Cumulatively, H1 2010 is below expected Budgetary outlook by some €500 million - 2.3% savings on the Budget 2010. Even more impressively, it is now 6.2% behind 2009, 'saving' us €1.4 billion. Not exactly the amount that gets us out of the budgetary hole we've dug for ourselves, but...

I'd love to stop at this point for a pause to enjoy the warm rays of achievement for Ireland Inc. But I can't - it's all due to cuts in capital spending - running some €609 million below Budget 2010 plan for the first xis months of the year. €400 million plus of this comes out of DofTransport budget. All in, current cuts to capital budget represent whooping 36% reduction on 2009 levels. Surely, this will cost many jobs in a couple of months ahead.

And on the other side of this equation - current spending is actually running ahead of Budget 2010 forecasts (actually made in March 2010, so no - DofF has not improved its forecasting powers, it simply is missing targets closer to its own estimation date). And this is true for the second month in the row. Overall, we are now in excess of forecasts by 0.5% and only 1.9% behind comparable figures for H1 2009.

Last few charts:

Now, keep reminding yourselves - the last chart above does not include banks funding in 2010 to-date... Your final tax bill - will. Get the picture?
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