Friday, 15 February 2013

Are Ireland and Portugal out of the woods? An updated version


This post is an updated version of the previous one, addressing some of the points raised by Wolfgang Munchau in this article published since in the Financial Times.


Available from Zed Books
Ireland and Portugal have, recently, tested the water of the money markets with some success. Portugal has issued 5-year bonds and Ireland is in the process of converting its unbearable promissory notes into long-term bonds, to be sold to the private sector. In addition, Ireland managed to secure the consent of the ECB’s Council to restructure the hated Promissory Notes that added a hefty 20% to its debt-to-GDP ratio back in 2010. So, on face value, two of the so-called ‘program’ Eurozone countries, wards of the EFSF and the troika, are returning to the markets.

But does this mean that they are out of the woods? Is there, in other words, any justification in saying that these two countries are closer today to exiting their ward-of-the-troika status than they were last July, before Mr Draghi’s pronouncement that he will do all it takes to save the Eurozone? The answer to both questions is, I am afraid, a resounding ‘No!’ To see why this is so, it helps to remind ourselves (a) what it means to be ‘out of the woods’, and (b) what Mr Draghi’s OMT program is and how it is affeting Italy and Spain and, through them, Ireland, Portugal.

To begin with, to be ‘out of the woods’ ought to mean a capacity to finance one’s state without relying on direct or indirect state financing by any of the troika’s branches. It means that Dublin, Lisbon, Rome, Madrid can run their own fiscal policy without the direct supervision of the troika and without reliance on the troika’s willful actions to secure the sustainability of that fiscal policy. It will be my claim, below, that none of the ‘fallen’ Eurozone states (Ireland, Portugal, Spain and even Italy) are nearer this ‘happy ending’ today than they were in July 2012. [Click here to read the rest of the article]

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