It was always going to be unlikely that the process of briefings for opposition parties would be kept secret. However, with what appears to be authoritative and pretty detailed information all over today’s Irish Independent, it may just be best if the Department of Finance publicly released the briefing information it provided to the opposition politicians yesterday.
One of the more mysterious aspects of the budgetary finances is the magic promissory notes. By my count, we will have issued about €30 billion of these by the end of the year: About €25 billion to Anglo and about €5 billion to INBS.
In this post earlier today, I pointed out that while the principal payments on these notes didn’t count against the general government deficit (because these will all be registered as part of this year’s deficit) they will still be part of our ongoing financing requirement in the coming years.
I didn’t write earlier about interest payments on these notes (the figures I was writing about were just my guess about the annual principal payments). One reason I didn’t discuss interest payments is that I wasn’t sure there were any: They could just be zero coupon bonds. However, it looks as though they are not. On Prime Time this evening, Joan Burton and government junior minister Billy Kelleher agreed that the annual interest cost of the promissory notes was going to be €1.5 billion. With €30 billion or so in notes issued, it now appears that the notes have an interest rate of 5%.
Now, as far as I know (and I’m happy to be corrected) these promissory note interest payments of €1.5 billion a year will count against the general government deficit.
Here I’ve updated the calculations from my Irish Taxation Institute presentation to incorporate the “if the promissory notes pay 5%” scenario. The bottom line? If one adjusts last year’s budget projections for (a) New projections from the Central Bank for nominal GDP (b) A projected decline in revenue of €1 billion (c) €1.5 billion in promissory note interest payments, then the starting point for this year’s budget prior to any adjustments would be a deficit of €22.5 billion or 13.9% of GDP.
Note that even if one didn’t factor in negative effects of fiscal adjustments on GDP, then with a Central Bank GDP projection of €162 billion, hitting the original deficit target for 2011 of 10% of GDP would require adjustments of €6.3 billion (162*0.039). Factoring in the contractionary impact of budget cuts on GDP, it would likely take €7 billion in adjustments to get to a 10% target.
As I say, these calculations are based on a 5% interest rate on the promissory notes. My interpretation from Minister Kelleher’s apparent confirmation of Burton’s comments is that this is the correct rate. However, I think it’s time for the government to fully clarify the terms of these notes as soon as possible.