Thursday, August 11, 2011

11/08/2011: Exchequer balance for July 2011

Staying on the topic of Exchequer performance - the theme is (see earlier post here) "The dead can't dance". This, of course, refers to our flat-lined economy and the ability of the Government to extract revenue out of collapsing household incomes, wealth and dwindling number of solvent domestic companies.

Let us now briefly cover the remaining parts of the Exchequer equation: spending and overall balance position.

Overall, the Exchequer deficit at end-July 2011 was €18.894bn compared to a deficit of €10.189bn in the first seven months of 2010. The increase reflects a number of things.

The Government has issued back in March this year some €3.085bn worth of bank promisory notes to the larks of Irish banking: Anglo, INBS and EBS, all of which have since ceased to exist. On top of that the Government showered some €5.241bn of taxpaers cash onto the elephants of the Irish banking system: AIB (the Grandpa Zombie) and BofI (the Zombie-Light). To top things up, the Exchequer pushed some €2.3 billion of taxpayers funds into IL&P (the msot recent addition to the Zombies Club).

Controlling for banks measures, 2011 deficit through July stands at €8.241bn which represents savings of €1.449bn on same period of 2010. So, now recall - tax receipts went up by €1.48bn in total. Ex-banks deficit shrunk by €1.45bn in total... which, of course, strongly suggests that the "Exchequer stabilisation" so much lauded by our Government was achieved largely not due to some dramatic reforms or austerity, but due to old-fashioned raid on taxpayers' pockets.

Aptly, folks, austerity is not to be found in the aggregate figures. Per DofF own statement, "total net voted expenditure at end-July, at €25.7 billion, was €224 million or 0.9% up year-on-year. Net voted current spending was up €813 million or 3.5% but net voted capital expenditure was €589 million or 26.4% down. Adjusting for the reclassification of health levy receipts to form part of the USC which has the effect of increasing net voted expenditure, it is estimated that total net voted expenditure fell 2.6% year-on-year." Hmm... ok, there seems to be some austerity, but on capital spending side.

The main culprit for this is the continuous rise in Social Protection spending and low single-digit decreases in spending in some other departments. Hence, unadjusted for changed composition:
  • Communications, Energy and Natural Resources spending declined just 8.1% on 2008 levels for the period January-July 2011
  • Education and skills - by just 8.2%
  • Health - by only 4.3%
While Social Protection spending rose 49.7% on 2008 levels and Department of Taoiseach is up 1%.

It is worth noting that lagging in cuts departments account for ca 49.12% of the total spending by the Government, while Social Protection accounts for 30.07%.

We might not want to see the above areas cut severely back, but if we are to tackle the deficit, folks, we simply have to. Why? Because our debt is rising and this debt is fueled largely by the deficit.

And this means that our debt servicing costs are also rising. Total debt servicing expenditure at end-July, including funds used from the Capital Services Redemption Account was just over €3 billion. Per DofF statement, "Excluding the sinking fund payment which had been made by end-July in 2010 but which has not yet been made in 2011, debt servicing costs to end-July 2010 were some €21⁄4 billion. The year-on-year increase in comparative total debt servicing expenditure therefore was €3⁄4 billion." One way or the other, we are paying out some 12% of our total tax receipts in debt interest finance. That is almost double the share of the average household budget that was spent on mortgages interest financing back at the peak of the housing markets craze in December 2006 - (6.667%).

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