The monthly Exchequer Account publications tend to get more attention than they deserve because of the frequency of their release. Although the Exchequer Account is useful, it is a somewhat distorted view of the overall fiscal situation. On the revenue side it excludes PRSI and Motor Tax, among others, while the expenditure side is based around the largely meaningless concept of “net expenditure”.
The Exchequer Account gives the misleading impression that the government “spends €50 billion and brings in €30 billion”. We can get a truer, but less timely, insight into the fiscal situation from the CSO’s National Income and Expenditure Accounts which were published a few weeks ago for 2010.
Here we focus on Table 21: Receipts and Expenditure of Central and Local Government. Tables 22 to 29 provide further details of the aggregate figures provided here.
First, here is government expenditure since 2006. Item 246: Redemption of Securities and Loan Repayments is excluded from the extract reproduced below.
Grants to Enterprises includes €4,000 million to Anglo Irish Bank in 2009 and €31,575 million of Promissory Notes issued to Anglo, INBS and EBS in 2010. These are the only items directly related to the banking bailout in the table. If these are excluded total expenditure was €71,737 million in 2009 and €69,947 million in 2010.
Government expenditure in 2010, excluding the banks, was 44.8% of GDP and 54.6% of GNP.
Second, here is government revenue. Item 236: Borrowings is excluded in this instance.
Government revenue in 2010 was 32.8% of GDP and 39.9% of GNP
Since running close to a balanced budget in 2007, expenditure has increased from €68 billion to €70 billion while revenue has fallen from €67 billion to €51 billion.
In 2010, there was an overall deficit of €18.8 billion. This is expected to fall to around €15 billion this year. It has been revealed that a “three-year plan” will be published in the autumn giving outline details of how this will be brought down to €5 billion by 2015.
On the expenditure side the largest items are transfer payments and public sector pay. The capital budget has already been cut by one-half. The deteriorations on the taxation side are well known as these are not clouded by the archaic accounting practices used to generate the Exchequer Account.
The “low-lying fruit” has been picked and the time for the “heavy lifting” is approaching.