Friday, August 12, 2011

13/11/2011: What do PIIGS tell us about EU's economic convergence thesis

Working with the industrial production indices today, I found it interesting to compare the PIIGS in terms of their respective industrial performance over the years. The chart below does exactly that, but first few numbers, using annual averages of monthly data for 1990-present
  • Annualized production index in the Euro area had risen from 85.95 in 1990 to 105.58 in the first 6mo of 2011 - a rate of increase in the sector of 0.94% annually
  • Irish industrial production over the same period rose from 31.54 to 146.43 an increase of 7.23% annually on average. We are currently at the historic peak in terms of annual averages of 146.43 slightly above 2010 level of 145.53 when our industrial activity surpassed the pre-crisis peak of 145.43 attained in 2007.
  • Spain's industrial output index rose from 80.63 in 1990 to 85.97 in 2011 (though H1 so far) an increase of 0.29% per annum on average. Spain's industrial production peaked in 2007 at 108.79.
  • Italy's industrial production dropped from 85.59 in 1990 to 85.48 in 2011 so far, in effect the rate of growth just below zero on average annually. Italy's industrial activity peaked in 1992 and has been declining since then.
  • Greece's data only goes as far back as 1995 and from that base the country industrial production shrunk from 79.12 to 74.16 over the 1995-present, an annualized rate of decrease in production of 0.4%. In fact, Greek industrial output activity peaked in 2000 and has been on decline since then.
  • Portugal's data is available only since 2000 and within the span of 2000-present, Portuguese industrial output index fell from 100 to 85.55 - an annualized rate of decline of 1.3%. Portuguese output maxed-out back in 2002 at less-than-impressive 102.05 or just 2.05% above 2000 level.

Now, another interesting issue is just how much was the crisis responsible for in terms of derailing any potential convergence in industrial activity between the PIIGS and the Euro area average. In all of the countries concerned, and in the Euro area 17 aggregate data, the crisis is marked by the contraction of industrial activity in 2008. Re-based to 2007=1000, data shows that:
  • EU 17 remains at 93.40% of 2007 operating levels
  • Ireland has exceeded 2007 peak production levels by 0.69% in H1 2011
  • Greece remains at 25.35% below peak 2007 capacity and the situation is worsening
  • Spain has seen a slight improvement on 2010 levels in H1 2011, but is still suffering a 21% decline in industrial capacity relative to pre-crisis peak
  • Italy's industrial output recovered only slightly off the cyclical low, reaching the average of 84.33 in H1 2011, some 15.67% below pre-crisis levels
  • Portugal's industrial activity fell in 2008, and 2009, rebounded slightly in 2010 and is now falling again. As of the end of H1 2011, industrial output index stood at 11.3% below the pre-crisis levels.
So overall, the data suggests that despite extremely anemic growth in the Euro area in terms of industrial production since 1990, no PIIGS country other than Ireland was on convergence path to the Euro area levels of activity. The gap in industrial performance between the countries and Euro area has grown in Greece, Italy and Portugal, and failed to converge in Spain (where growth rate was more than 3 times slower than in the Euro area).

Ireland stands alone as the economy where the much hyped convergence thesis (one of justifications for the Euro area and indeed the EU overall existence) holds. Irony has it, in Ireland this convergence was achieved, of course, almost exclusively due to MNCs. So the EU can say thank you to the US, UK, some EU and ROW investments for proving the convergence thesis in just one out of 5 examined economies.

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