Sunday, July 13, 2014

13/7/2014: Up, Down the Current Account Ladder

For quite some years now, Irish Governments have been keen promoting Ireland's 'unique' external balances performance that, allegedly, made us so distinct from other 'peripheral' countries. Our external balances were booming, we were told by the Government. Ireland's external surpluses are its unique strength, said the boffins at the Brussels think tanks. We are not like Portugal or Greece or Spain when it comes to the 'real' 'competitive' economy.

The hiccup of course, is that this rhetoric was ignoring few little pesky facts, such as the source of our external trade 'competitiveness' or the shifting composition of our trade. Nonetheless, it had some teeth: we started with a much higher base of exports in the economy and stronger external balances than other 'peripheral' states.

Still, in the world of crisis-related 'adjustments', the rate of change matters as much as the starting levels. And judging by IMF data, our rate of improvement in external balances is not that unique:

Per chart above, trade-attributed current account adjustments (the pink bar) for Ireland are higher than for any other peripheral economy. But net adjustments (accounting for income and transfers) are only third highest. This, in part, is due to the fact that vast majority of our exports are supplied by companies that increasingly ship more profits out of Ireland (and this is even worse if we are to account for profits temporarily retained in Ireland by the MNCs).

Still, good news: our trade balance is doing well. Better than any other 'peripheral' in the sample...

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