Tuesday, March 31, 2009

OECD report blasts Irish policies

Now, that the FT busted out the OECD report released today, I can do the same. I gave it a quick preview in this yesterday's post (here) so now let's get down to the details.

Here is what I said about it's findings yesterday:
"...compared to other developed countries around the world, Ireland finds itself as:
  • the worst economically governed in the world;
  • in deepest trouble when it comes to housing markets declines to date;
  • the country that is applying all the wrong (uniquely Irish) remedies to its fiscal problems; and
  • the country that is least well positioned to come out of this recession any time soon."
In effect, OECD's report, that does not focus on Ireland alone, provides a somber assessment of Irish Government policies, exposing their complete and total failure in addressing the crisis to date. And here are the actual details per each point.

Point 1: The worst economic governance in the world:
Table 3.4:
So per the above numbers:
  • Ireland has the fastest rising debt in the OECD;
  • Ireland has the worst primary imbalances in the OECD. The US is catching up in 2010 projections, though the cumulative impact of primary imbalances over 2008-2010 will still remain the highest in Ireland (by over 1% point). Furthermore, the US imbalances are sourced from rapid fiscal spending expansion - wasteful, but nonetheless stimulative, while Irish primary imbalances arise from over bloated current expenditure - the purest form of public sector waste of all;
  • Ireland has the highest fiscal gap in the OECD in both 2008 outrun and 2010 projections.
Next, move up to Figure 3.3 (below) which shows that we have blown fiscal spending policies not on healthcare or long-term care provisions, but on something else.
Ireland is managing to achieve the third highest projected spending rises through 2050 of all OECD states (after catch-up Korea and Greece), but lions share of that is being consumed by growth in pensions exposure. Why? How else do you think are we supposed to pay for Rolls-Royce pensions provisions in the public sector?

Point 2: Ireland is applying the uniquely wrong measures to addressing our fiscal and economic problems:
This is a point that links to point 1 above, so let us deal with it now. Table 3.2 below gives the data on different measures and their incidences and impact on the sectors of economy as adopted by various OECD governments.
Ireland clearly stands out here as:
  • The only OECD country that, unconstrained by the IMF austerity measures, is facing a rising burden of the state (positive net effect of fiscal austerity for 2008-2010 period);
  • One of only three OECD countries (Italy and Mexico being in our company) that is raising taxes (and here we are facing tax increases that are 12 times more severe than Italy and over 4 times more severe than Mexico, before the April 7 Mini-Budget hammers us even more);
  • One of only two countries (Iceland being another country, but it is constrained by the IMF conditions) to raise individual taxes (our tax increases are twice those of Iceland). What is even more insulting is that our individual tax increases are by far the biggest source of fiscal burden of all other fiscal policies Messr Cowen and Lenihan are willing to adopt;
  • One of only 3 countries (the IMF-constrained Hungary, and Italy being the other two) that is raising consumption taxes, with increased consumption tax burden being 5 times greater in Ireland than in Italy;
  • A country with the heaviest burden of fiscal policies on households - with combined effect of individual, social security and consumption tax increases of +3.7% - 12 times the rate of tax burden increases in Italy and almost 4 times the rate of total household tax burden increases in Iceland and Hungary;
  • Our fiscal expenditure measures are second worst only to IMF-constrained Iceland.
Figure 3.2 below illustrates, although one has to remember that Israel scores next to us because it actually has rising tax revenue and is facing the unwinding of some of the exceptional spending that occurs during military campaigns.
Another interesting aspect of the OECD findings relates to the sources of our fiscal imbalances. Figure 3.1 shows these:
Notice that according to the OECD chart, the cyclical component of the debt increases for 2008-2010 is only roughly 26% of the entire debt levels. The ESRI (see here) says it should be around 50%. I estimated (here) that it should be around 21% (here).

Point 3: The scope for recovery:
According to the OECD "On this basis, the countries with most scope for fiscal manoeuvre would appear to be Germany, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Korea and some of the Nordic countries. Conversely, countries where the scope for fiscal stimulus is very limited would include Japan, Italy, Greece, Iceland and Ireland." We are in a good company here, indeed.

Point 4: Housing troubles:
Finally, Table 1.2 below illustrates my housing crisis point.
Yes, no comment needed here.

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