Michael Burke: Irish Economy has a thread on the impact on Ireland on the decision to downgrade Greece and Portugal.
The credibility of the ratings' agencies ought to have been dealt a fatal blow by the sub-prime debacle. But, as far as sovereign debt is concerned, it seems financial market participants like to have an additional, outsourced voice of neo-liberal orthodoxy as well as their own. The FF-led government has done everythng demanded of them by the ratings' agencies, and more, so it might be impolitic to downgrade Irish government debt too.
However, the bond markets reflect the nature of the crisis. The yield levels at 10yr maturities for govt. debt were as follows as of close of business Tuesday (%, FT bond table);
Greek yields rose 81bps yesterday, Portugal up 59bps and Ireland up 46bps. Portugal is widely thought to be next in line from the ‘contagion’ effects of the Greek crisis. If so, in terms of both level and change in yields, Ireland cannot be far behind.
Of course, Ireland’s unique experiment in fiscal contraction was designed to “reassure the financial markets”. It has clearly done nothing of the kind. No-one, not even Greece, has a higher projected general government budget deficit this year. And many countries with higher levels of debt now have considerably lower yields, including Belgium, Italy and France.
Yield levels which exceed nominal growth rates, or more accurately the growth rate in taxation revenues which derive from them, cannot be sustained indefinitely. Perhaps, post the German elecions all will return to normaility and yields subside. Perhaps not.
But even in the optimistic scenario, it is clear that Irish government policy has failed in its own terms. Growth has not resumed, taxes continue to decline and the deficit continus to widen. Unsurprisingly, none of this has reasured financial markets and relative borrowing costs have continued to climb.
Perhaps it is worth trying to learn something from the Greek experience, as well as from others. The Greek recesion had been milder than the EU average, and recovering, before austerity measures were adopted, as both the PMI and GDP charts here show.
Now the Bank of Greece warns that the austerity measures themselves have lowered taxation revenues and argues therefore (!) for greater austerity measures. This sounds depressingly familiar.
By contrast, other EU countries adopted fiscal stimulus measures. Their debt has stabilised along with economic activity and they have been rewarded with much lower bond yields than Ireland.