The Great Debate UK
Ireland's fall from grace has been rapid and far worse than that of its counterparts, even Greece. But life in the euro zone has still been one of profound growth, as it has for most of the other peripheral economies.
Take a look first at the progress of PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) GDP since 2007 when the global financial crisis took hold. In straight comparisons (ie, rebased to the same point) Ireland is far and away the biggest loser. Portugal is basically where it was.
But now take the rebasing back to roughly the time that the euro zone came together. First, it shows that Ireland's fall is from a very high place. The decade has still been one of profound improvement in cumulative GDP even with the last few years' misery. But it is front loaded.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is what the second graph (courtesy Reuters' Scott Barber) says about the PIGS and the euro experiment. Despite major financial and market crises, Greece, Spain and Ireland have all seen their economies accumulate at a higher rate than the euro zone average. Only Portugal has been below average -- a perennial slow grower.
from Felix Salmon:
Does the Ireland crisis bespeak a major weakness in the Basel capital-adequacy regime? Simon Nixon thinks so: the fact that investors won't lend to Bank of Ireland, he says, "highlights a major weakness of the Basel capital rules that European banks operate under."
This is an interesting idea: Ireland's problem is a banking problem, banking problems are Basel problems, and therefore it stands to reason that Ireland's problem might be a Basel problem. But if you look more closely at Nixon's reasoning, his thesis ends up falling apart.
– Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own. –
Supporting Ireland to the tune of a few billion quid must look like a no-brainer to the British Government. We should not make the same mistake as the Germans, who managed to get the worst of both worlds over Greece – forced by the scale of their bank exposure to support Greece, but providing the money with ill will, causing bitterness rather than gratitude – and now repeating the error in the Irish case.
Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, popularized the motto that one shouldn't waste a good crisis. But there is a severe risk that this is precisely what the world has been doing by being excessively soft in bailing out banks and countries since Lehman Brothers went bust in 2008.
Bailouts, such as that being negotiated for Ireland, may be needed to prevent a descent into chaos. But the conditions must be tough. Otherwise, the world won't learn the lessons from the crisis and justice won't be seen to be done.
from Felix Salmon:
Color me underwhelmed by the Irish bailout. By all accounts it's going to be less than €100 billion -- probably in the €80 billion to €90 billion range -- and that sum has to cover the country's entire borrowing needs for the next three years. The NYT has a breakdown:
While a precise breakdown was not given, analysts and people involved in the talks said that about 15 billion euros was likely to go to backstop the banks. As much as 60 billion euros would go to Ireland’s annual budget deficit of 19 billion euros for the next three years.
Ireland’s banking crisis reached boiling point this week. The Irish authorities are still adamant the country doesn’t need a bailout and are trying to draw a distinction between a sovereign bailout (which Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan et al claim they don’t need) and banking sector support (which they most definitely do).
The assault on the Irish bond market by bond investors has continued with a vengeance this week with 10-year bond yields hovering close to nine percent at 8.91 percent. Since August yields have been trending higher, but they accelerated sharply in mid-October, when they were at six percent. At this rate, yields could be in double figures by next week.
–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–
If the economics profession has sunk in public estimation in the last two or three years, it would hardly be surprising. Our failure to predict the crisis is something which cannot be simply brushed aside lightly, as some of my colleagues would love to do.
from Felix Salmon:
I love the way that the WSJ today covers the collapse of Ireland's banking system, and with it the country's fiscal leadership. There's little if any actual news here, but that's a feature, not a bug: it frees up the WSJ's writers and editors to present the big-picture narrative in as clear and compelling a manner as possible, without having to overemphasize some small factoid which they happen to be breaking.
The story reads like one of those epic lyric tragedies of old, where no one ever learns from their mistakes, and errors simply compound endlessly. First, the Irish government, convinced that the country's banks were suffering from a liquidity crisis rather than a banking crisis, decided to solve that problem in the way that only a government can -- with a blanket guarantee of substantially all of the banks' liabilities.
from Global News Journal:
Every time I write a story on European countries cutting public spending, I feel a frisson of panic. I can't help but fear my health, lifestyle and liberty could be a casualty of the "age of austerity".
On assignment covering the Sri Lankan civil war for Reuters four years ago, I broke my neck in a minibus smash. It left me quadriplegic, almost entirely paralysed from the shoulders down and totally dependent on 24 hour care. I was 25.