Saturday, January 7, 2012

7/1/2012: Irish Exchequer Results 2011 - Capital v Current Spending Trends

In the previous posts we considered Exchequer results for 2011 for tax receipts and headline expenditure items. In this post we look at the capital and current spending composition breakdown for total spending.

One core assertion that was made in the previous posts is that capital spending carried the main load of Exchequer spending adjustments in 2011. Overall, year on year, total net cumulative voted spending by the Irish state declined 1.6% or €721 million. At the same time, current expenditure went up by 2.2% or €903 million. Capital expenditure dropped 27.4% year on year in 2011 or €1,623 million.

Table below highlights the yearly changes over the crisis period:

The table above clearly shows that while during the crisis Net Voted Current Spending went up by €663 million, capital spending has declined by €4,265 mln on aggregate. The table also shows that despite all the austerity discourse, our Net Current expenditure was rising in 2010 and 2011, while our capital expenditure was declining to compensate for these increases.

In addition, the table highlights the trend that shows current expenditure rising at accelerating rate in 2010 and 2011 and capital expenditure falling at accelerating rate in 2011 relative to 2010.

If capital spending by the state constitutes either a 'Keynesian' stimulus (as claimed by the Governments over the years) or an investment in future productive capacity of our economy (as also claimed by the Governments in the past), we are now into a third consecutive year of bleeding the economy dry.

And the dynamics are best illustrated by referencing to the longer time horizons:

So current expenditure share of total spending by the Government now stands at 90.6%, up from 2010 level of 87.3% and 1998-2002 average share of 82.3%. On the other hand, capital investment share of total Government spending has dropped from 21.7% average for 1998-2002 period to 21.0% in 2008 and to 14.6% in 2010. In 2011 this share declined to below 10.4%.

 Between 2000 and 2010, Irish State invested in new capital stock some €66.26 billion of funds. Assuming 8% combined amortization and depreciation on this stock implies the need for continued gross investment of ca €5.3 billion annually. This means that 2011 Net Capital Spending fell some €1.01 billion short of covering the depletion of the state-financed capital stock.

The above, of course, is a rather crude calculation, since amortization and depreciation are at least in part covered from the current spending and since we use net voted capital spending figure for the capital stock measurements, but it does clearly suggest that current rates of capital investment cannot be sustained in the long term. And hence, much of the savings that have driven our Exchequer deficit improvements to-date are not sustainable either.

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