BaNama Republic

Well, the legislation is out though I’m not sure we’re really much the wiser.  Needless to say, my favourite bits have already been highlighted by commenters in our long-term valuation thread.

(a) a reference to the current market value of the property comprised in the security for a credit facility that is a bank asset is a reference to the estimated amount that would be paid between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction where both parties acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion,

(c) a reference to the long-term economic value of the property comprised in the security for a credit facility that is a bank asset is a reference to the value that the property can reasonably be expected to attain in a stable financial system when current crisis conditions are ameliorated and in which a future price or yield of the asset is consistent with reasonable expectations having regard to the long-term historical average.

I could rant on about the craziness of paying according to (c) rather than (a) but it pretty much speaks for itself and, in any case, you already know what I think.  What about the rest of you? What do make of paying according to (c) rather than (a) and is there much else in the legislation that you found interesting?

Long-Term Economic Value

It is clear that when the NAMA legislation is published later today, there will be a lot of focus on the question of long-term economic value and the European Commission’s guidelines for pricing assets transferred to government asset management agencies.

I have written about this issue before and don’t want to repeat myself. However, I’d like to emphasise two issues.

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Some Thoughts on Wages and Competitiveness

There’s a lively debate going on about Philip’s earlier comments about competitiveness and recovery and I wanted to add to it but then wrote something so long I decided it would be best to exploit privilege and start a new post.

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Competitiveness and Recovery

David Begg criticises the ‘deflationary’ strategy in an article in today’s Irish Times (you can read it here). In reading this article, it is helpful to remember that the term deflation requires subtle interpretation for a member of a monetary union. In particular, the main substantive issue is whether real devaluation is a necessary part of a recovery strategy, where real devaluation means a decline in relative wages and prices in Ireland relative to our trading partners. For a low-inflation monetary union, an individual member country may require a temporary period of deflation in order to attain a significant real devaluation.

David Begg argues that there is little evidence that deflation facilitates recovery. However, there is a strong body of evidence that real devaluation is helpful. Just taking Irish economic history, the devaluations of 1986 and 1993 were contributory factors to economic growth.

It is certainly true that the global recession means that the level of external demand is low. It is also true that the re-orientation of spending in the world economy towards Asia and away from the United States does not help Ireland, given the nature of trading patterns.  However, these external factors simply underline the scale of the negative shock that Ireland is enduring.

It is also true that high levels of household debt means that deflation carries an extra cost in terms of raising the real burden of debt repayments. However, the single biggest risk factor in debt repayment is unemployment and a strategy that minimises the growth in unemployment through the restoration of competitiveness dominates.

The real question is whether there is a credible alternative.  If Ireland had run a counter-cyclical fiscal policy during the good years, there may have been room to do more in terms of counter-cyclical fiscal expansion now. However, the scale of the fiscal deficits and the fragile state of international bond markets mean that significant fiscal expansion cannot be entertained.

Rather, the focus has to be on restoring international competitiveness through real devaluation (plus other measures to fight monopoly power in the economy and improve productivity).  This will stimulate not only the export sector but also the domestic nontraded sector, since the level of domestic consumption will be boosted if Ireland can establish a sustainable growth path.  In relation to the export sector, the gain will not only be in terms of the performance of existing sectors and firms but also in relation to the ‘extensive margin’ (new firms exporting for the  first time, sectors emerging as internationally competitive).  In turn, suppliers of domestic services to these firms will gain, such that the employment impact will be wider than just the export sector itself.

Not Too Late for a Different Approach to the Banking Crisis

As I write this, the government is continuing to mull over its NAMA proposal. The proposal has been around so long that it is easy to forget that we are actually still at an early stage with this process, with the legislation yet to be published even in draft form and no vote due for a couple of months. For these reasons, it is still worth discussing why alternative approaches may be worth taking.

I’d like to set out one such approach. But before doing so, let me explain why I think things have moved on since the NAMA proposal was introduced.

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