BURSA 26.01.2017

CĂLIN RECHEA (translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
 
mărește imaginea
     Investment bank Lehman Brothers announced its default on September 15th 2008, and has forced the global authorities to acknowledge the beginning of an unprecedented crisis.
     Two months later, the Romanian National Forecast Commission (CNP) published the long term autumn prognosis, wherein it estimated the evolution of the main macroeconomic indicators until 2020.
     Thus, the nominal GDP was supposed to increase 14.6% in 2009, compared to the previous year, and in 2015 it was supposed to increase to 1089 billion, after increasing 115.7% compared to 2008 (see chart 1).
     By 2020, the nominal GDP was supposed to increase three times, to 1590 billion lei. Unfortunately, reality had other plans and proved to the Romanian Authorities, including to the National Bank, that it is not enough to ignore a global crisis for it not to touch you.
     According to data from the National Statistics Institute (INS), calculated according to the new European account system (SEC 2010), the nominal value of goods and services in the economy decreased 2.6% in 2009 over the previous year, to 510.5 billion lei, and the discrepancy from the CNP forecasts increased continuously until 2015, even if the European regulations allow including in the GDP estimates concerning the grey market and black market sections of the economy.
     No one demands and expects forecasts that would match reality perfectly, because "making forecasts is extremely difficult, especially for the future", like renowned physician Niels Bohr once said.
     But radically different forecasts in a period of approximately two months?
     It would seem that is possible too. Between November 2016 and January 2017, CNP found new "engines" for the economic growth in the next four years. The nominal GDP will not be 977.2 billion lei in 2020, but 1,014 billion, while this year's amount will be 7.8 billion higher than the initial forecast, of 807.4 billion (see chart 2).
     But the miracle doesn't stop there. Through a simple "adjustment", probably, the real economic growth will not slow down to 4.3% in 2017, down from 4.8% in the previous year, and will instead speed up to 5.2% and will match perfectly the hypotheses used in building the budget.
     Then comes a new acceleration, to 5.5% in 2018, and the annual "growth" will stabilize at 5.7% in the last two years of the forecast period.
     To presidential advisor Cosmin Marinescu, the forecast of a growth rate of 5.2% in 2017 is unrealistic, according to an interview he recently granted news.ro: "It is unclear why the forecast has been revised upwards, after just two months, de from 4.3% to 5.2%", the presidential advisor said.
     In "The report concerning the macroeconomic situation in 2017 and its projection for the 2018-2020 period" it is stated that the basic principles of the draft budget are "transparency, effectiveness, predictability, prudency and performance", and the estimates "have been made using the common methodology and agreed upon by the 28 member states".
     If the same methodology has been used for the autumn and winter forecasts of the National Prognosis Commission, where do those major differences come from, especially when it comes to the real economic growth?
     Liberal senator Florin Cîțu later challenged the "construction" of the budget on his blog, where he said that "the budget is not built based on the autumn forecast of the CNP, as provided by the law, but based on the winter forecast", as it "has been published approximately two months earlier than was normal". Cîțu also accuses the CNP of having "revised" its forecasts in order to match "the vision" of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, and says that "I will be asking my colleagues in the PNL to bring a criminal lawsuit against the executives of the CNP". "If it is right, we will all get burned", the PNL senator concluded.
     But the extremely optimistic estimate of the evolution of the economy in the next four years is not the only weak spot of the budget. Even if we overlook "transparency" easily, what about prudency? Hasn't the CNP learned anything, and more so our authorities, from the lesson of the crisis that began in 2008? Where does this optimism concerning the evolution of the economy over the next four years come from, when the global trade "landscape" is precisely in the process of undergoing a transformation following the victory of the Trump administration, and the problems of the EU are going through a new phase of worsening?
     The report also states that the "potential GDP will increase at an annual growth rate of 5.1%", whereas "the gap between the GDP and the potential GDP levels expressed as a percentage of the potential GDP will be closed in 2018". But don't we have the opinion of some NBR officials, that the output gap was closed as early as 2013 or Q2 2016?
     Aside from "faith", we must not forget that the methods for estimating the difference between the potential GDP and the real GDP are more or less mechanical, as they are heavily influenced by the growth of lending. Does the new government believe that we are back to the period of "growth" based on cheap loans and ultra-lax lending norms?
     It would seem so, because the report concerning the macroeconomic situation in the next years reflects an unrealistic approach of the evolution of borrowing costs.
     The governmental report also shows that "the yields of government bonds have followed a downward trend in the first three quarters of 2016, and then rise was mostly due to a number of foreign events".
     Unfortunately, we are not given a forecast of borrowing costs until 2020. Even though the president of the PSD has participated in the festivities for the instatement of the new president of the United States, the "expertise" he gained from that has not included the transparency provided by institutions such as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or Government Accountability Office (GAO), even though their forecasts are unrealistic as well.
     On the other hand, there are some signals sent by "reality", even here in Europe. The yield of the 10-year German government bonds increased 141.6% from the beginning of the year, to 0.46%.
     Why would that happen to the strongest economy of the continent? Has investors' confidence disappeared or is the world getting ready for a rise in borrowing costs?
     Yes, the world is getting ready for that, because confidence in major central banks has pretty much disappeared and inflationary pressures are forcing them to raise the interest rates.
     In that context, the economic basis of the Romanian budget for 2017 and the subsequent years is being systematically eroded, just like the cold erodes the mortar of homes built during winter, just to avoid missing any second of the "opportunity" provided by the irresponsible extension of the First Home program.
     Wouldn't the national budget be more realistic if it were drawn up through divination, rather than being "built" based on official "forecasts"? 
 

 
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