Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free falling

The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom still luvvs Ireland.  Sure we're down a few places to 7 in the global ranking but for an economy that just got an IMF/European Union bailout loan, that's not bad.   Credit to Heritage also for having New Zealand, Australia, and Canada ahead of Ireland and the United States.  People reading Heritage Foundation commentary on the replacement of BoehnerCare by ObamaCare might have concluded that that moving towards a more socialized system of health provision was the death knell of economic freedom in the USA but apparently Anglophone countries are managing just fine with such systems. 

Anyway, some puzzles about Ireland's ranking remain.  We still get the low corruption ranking, on the day the PM Brian Cowen goes to parliament to explain what exactly he talked about during a golf and dinner escapade with the chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank -- the bank that just 2 months after that event, would benefit from the bank guarantee scheme that eventually brought down the country.   This brings us to the financial freedom score --

Ireland’s competitive financial system was compromised by the collapse of a property bubble in which banks were highly exposed. Government action in response to the financial crisis included the establishment of a single fully integrated regulatory institution. The government also restructured the financial sector, creating the National Asset Management Agency to stabilize banking and restore liquidity. Since early 2009, the government has nationalized Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide, and Allied Irish Bank. The Bank of Ireland has received capital injections and remains partly state-owned.

That's fair enough as a description of events, but it's scored as a 70, which the methodology explains as --

70—Limited government influence. Credit allocation is influenced by the government, and private allocation of credit faces almost no restrictions. Government ownership of financial institutions is sizeable. Foreign financial institutions are subject to few restrictions.

"Limited Government Influence" of a sector that is in slow-motion nationalization by the government and indeed a sector that would have not survived in its current form without massive government support?  Note for instance that fellow Eurozone member Italy gets a lower score, a 60, "significant government influence".
If you were a private investor, would you put your money into an Irish or Italian bank?

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