David McWilliams

Directed by Conall Morrison.

The Peacock Theatre
16 June-3 July
Previews 9-15 June

OUTSIDERS is a characteristically vivid, humorous and uncompromising account of what is going on in Ireland. In a unique theatre piece, McWilliams offers a narrative of the recent collusion between the insiders of the Irish political system and the financial sector.

McWilliams believes Ireland’s political and social divide is not so much about rich and poor, young and old, urban and rural, but about Insiders and Outsiders. The Insiders – found in every village, town and city – are those with a stake in our country who believe that today’s status quo must be preserved at all costs. The Outsiders – who might live next door – are those who realise that the status quo is part of the problem.

In Ireland every time there is a crisis, the Insiders get stronger, not weaker. Far from losing power and paying for the chaos they caused, they tighten their grip on the country. In contrast, the Outsiders are excluded and left to fend for themselves. That is what happened in the 1950s and the 1980s and it is happening again now. But there is an alternative. OUTSIDERS is about the alternative.

While the others cheered the boom, only one economist accurately predicted the collapse and mess we find ourselves in. He told you the truth then; he’s telling you the truth now.

Tickets: €14 – €22; 8pm, Saturday matinee 2.30pm

For more information please call the Abbey Box Office 01 87 87 2222

Abbey Theatre

Mortgage Arrears: March 2010

The financial regulator has released the latest summary data on mortgage arrears here. The data show a 13% increase in accounts more than 90 days in arrears. In total, 4.1 percent of mortgages are in arrears over 90 days, with 2.8 percent of these being over 180 days.

Balances on past due mortgages are higher on average than those not past due: The average balance for mortgages not past due is about 147,600 while the average balance for mortgages in arrears is 188,800. This means that past due mortgages account for 5.2 percent of the total balance of mortgages outstanding. Those mortgages past due over 180 days already have approximately 10 percent of the balance in arrears.

These calculations do not include people who are not in arrears because they have come to an agreement with their bank on a different repayment schedule.

These figures suggest to me that the Central Bank Prudential Capital Assessment Review’s “stress scenario” assumption of 5 percent looks more and more like a reasonable baseline. This is also the number the Morgan Kelly mentioned in his recent article as a conservative estimate.

How could this number come about? For instance, if the mortgages that need to be foreclosed on or restructured end up accounting for 10 percent of the total balance and the loss given default is 50 percent, then this would imply a five percent loss on the mortgage book. One could imagine more stressful scenarios than this.

Cowen on Ireland Defaulting

An Taoiseach has said the following in relation to Morgan Kelly’s article:

“Really implicit in some of the argumentation is the idea that it would be better for Ireland to default. But we simply don’t accept that at all and I think all of the implications from other countries where that happens greatly undermines, not just in terms of financial credibility but also the ability to retain confidence at home,” he added.

Let’s compare this with the following passage from Morgan’s article:

We need to explain that the Irish State has always honoured its debts in the past, and will continue to do so. However, the State is a distinct entity from its banks and, having learned the extent of the banks’ recklessness, we now have no choice but to allow the bank guarantee to lapse and to share the banks’ losses with their bondholders. It must be remembered that when these bonds were issued they had no government guarantee, and the institutions that bought them did so in full knowledge that they could default, and charged an appropriate rate of interest to compensate themselves for this risk.

So here’s a question. When Mr. Cowen says “Ireland”, does he mean “Irish banks”? If so, it would be nice if he was clearer about this matter in the future.

It’s still 20%

The European Union aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of their 1990 levels by 2020, and to 70% if there is a meaningful international treaty on climate policy.

These targets were set well in advance of Copenhagen, and the EU thus excluded itself from the negotiations. If you know what someone is going to say, why talk to them?

So as to underline the point that environmentalists do not understand much about negotiations, there is now a push for the 30% reduction target anyway. It’s as if someone walks into your shop, sees something they like but decide it’s too expensive, and then you decide to give it away for free! What a brilliant strategy to further undermine Europe’s standing in the world.

Fortunately, the 30% plan has been shelved again — for the time being.

Ants, grasshoppers and the London Underground

Martin Wolf has a really nice column here. For those of you who can’t access the article, the bottom line is that German and Asian savers have (via their banks) invested their savings in an exceptionally foolish manner — that is, by lending to the likes of us, to finance our excessive consumption habits. There is a clear possibility that they are, sooner or later, going to lose a lot of money as a result.

This brings to mind Keynes’ famous line that

“If the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada fails its shareholders by reason of legal restriction of the rates chargeable or for any other cause, we have nothing. If the underground system of London fails its shareholders, Londoners still have their underground system.”

At least 19th century Britain was investing in overseas railways, rather than in overseas housing bubbles!

One wonders whether the threat of ‘restructuring’ will eventually prompt the ants of Germany and Asia to start investing more of their savings in domestic investment projects, which might provide them with the foundations of sustainable growth.