Thursday, August 16, 2012

16/8/2012: Financial Repression - Round 2

Financial repression continues to gain speed in Ireland: link here.

Basic idea: having raided actual pensions funds, the Irish Government is to issue special annuities (priced accordingly to reflect State's 'grudging acceptance' for now of the pensions tax break) for insurance and pensions providers.

The good part of the idea is, as Fitch points in the note, added funding stream for the Government.

The bad parts are, as Fitch does not bother to note:

  • Deleveraging economy means that funds will be taken out of the already diminished private investment stream, should the annuities be successful in raising such funds;
  • Risks of claims exposure to Ireland for Ireland-based providers will now be amplified by more assets tied to Ireland (de-diversification);
  • The new funding is debt, priced more expensively than what we can avail of from the Troika programme and subsequently from the ESM (at least access to and the cheapness of the ESM funds was the Government-own rationale for convincing the voters to back the Fiscal Compact earlier this year - something that the rating agencies have confirmed, as I recall);
  • The new funding is still debt, which means that the new 'source' is not going to help restoring Irish public finances to sustainability path;
  • Payments on these annuities will be subject to the same seepage out to imports (consumption of recipient households) as any other income and thus will have lower impact on our GDP, and an even worse impact on our GNP, than were the annuities structured using foreign governments' bonds;
  • Share of the Irish state liabilities held by domestic investors will rise, which automatically implies riskier profile for both: Exchequer future funding and pensions;
  • The latter (pensions funding risk profile deterioration) will also induce higher expected value of future unfunded liabilities (basically, as risk of pensions funding rises, probability of claims on state in the future to fund public pensions rises as well), and so on.
But, hey, why would the Irish State bother with any of these concerns when they've found another quick fix to €3-5 billion of our cash?

And on a more macro level, financial repression is back on the EU agenda too. The latest spike in French rhetoric about the need for 'own-funding' of the EU operations (link here) is just that, have no doubt. The idea is to give EU some central taxation powers so, as claim goes, it reduces the 'burden' on national governments. So far so good? Not exactly. Neither the French, nor any other Government in Europe at this stage is planning to 'rebate' (or reduce) internal tax burdens to compensate for EU new tax burden. In other words, the Governments ill simply pocket the 'savings'. Which, to put it simply, means the new 'powers' will simply be new taxes for the already heavily over-taxed and recession-weakened economies of Europe.

All in the name of deleveraging the State at the expense of the real economy. And that is exactly what the financial repression is all about.

Updated: And just in case we need more 'creative' thinking, here's an example of financial suppression: It turns out Nama (Irish State Bad Bank - don't argue that SPV thingy, please) should use public purse to suppress normal price discovery processes in Irish property markets. Right... you really can't make this up. Irish elites are now so desperate for relevance, they are fishing that Confidence Genie anytime anyone is feigning some attention to what they have to say.

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