Tuesday, October 14, 2014

14/10/2014: Budget 2015: Economic Forecasts a Bit Optimistic

Here's my take on economic side of the Budget 2015 projections:

Gross current expenditure for 2015 will be just over €50 billion. This figure represents an increase of €429 million over the 2014 Revised Estimates. Note: in H1 2014, Government spent EUR35.567 billion which is EUR1.255 billion more than in the same period 2013. As unemployment fell, social benefits rose from EUR13.823 billion to EUR14.016 billion. General Government Deficit has fallen only EUR307 million y/y in H1 2014. These numbers are not consistent with strong economy or strong fiscal performance. Meanwhile, the state took out of the economy EUR1.893 billion more in taxes and social contributions in H1 2014 compared to H1 2013. Where did this increase of funding go?

Government deficit target for 2015 is 2.7% of GDP under ESA 2010 classification. Which means that going back to Troika programmes-comparable measure (ESA 1995 classification), the target deficit is closer to 3.2% of GDP. This is ahead of 3% target and shows how much debt we owe not to smart management of resources, but to accounting rules changes.

Here's a set of economic puzzles courtesy of the Department of Finance:

Real growth is slowing down from 2014 levels, but employment generation is rising. A puzzle. Especially as domestic demand is expected to grow at same rate in 2015 and growth rate is expected to fall in years after.

As compared against other organisations forecasts:

Added puzzle: IMF projections for Irish economy real GDP growth are: 2015 3.045% - full 0.85 percentage points lower than DofF, 2016: 2.538% which is full 0.87 percentage points below DofF, in 2017 : 2.649% or 0.75 percentage points below DofF… and so on.

And another kicker in the teeth… the promise of fiscal rectitude and 'no going back to boom-and-bust cycles':

All of the above is rather academic, since the Department of Finance refuses to forecast Gross Voted Current expenditure of the Exchequer beyond 2015, setting all of it at EUR50.075 billion for each year 2015-2018. Which means the estimated effects on deficit and on borrowing are based on assuming zero growth in spending and continued growth in tax revenues. Happy times roll, even though Haddington Road agreement is about to expire.

Still, as you can see, debt/GDP ratio is expected to fall, courtesy of higher GDP, including the new classification effects that came into force this year. But debt itself is not expected to fall. Instead, from EUR 203.2 billion, Government debt is expected to rise to EUR 215 billion in 2017 and basically stay there in 2018.

So on the balance: a bit too much optimism, especially past 2015. Not enough risk cushion. May the numbers turn out this well in reality...

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