The Ireland Inc column has long marvelled at the huge focus given by the international economic organisations on Irish debt and the relatively little focus given to the potentially larger problems building in the big countries, such as Britain. There are signs that this may be about to change.
Even a fairly rough analysis of the figures shows that British debt may grow higher and stay much higher for longer than Irish sovereign debt levels. Yet, Britain retains a top AAA sovereign debt rating and it costs the country up to 1% less than it costs Ireland to borrow money over a period of 10 years. The unconvincing explanations ignore the fact that Ireland enjoys the protection of the euro zone.
However, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) warned last week that Britain faced the rich world's largest deficit up to 2017. The Daily Telegraph reported that the OECD analysis cast "serious doubt" on Britain's "economic credibility", coinciding with the "shock public finance statistics" that British public borrowing in October made it likely the UK would miss its £175bn (€194bn) borrowing forecast this year.
Even a cursory glance of the forecasts suggest that when Ireland's National Asset Management Agency starts selling off the best of its assets from 2013 or 2014 Irish gross debt levels will fall sharply from the huge debt peaks of as much as 120% of GDP. The bigger countries like Britain carrying even larger debt levels may help the pressure on Ireland.
It may even convince the European Commission that insisting that small countries like Ireland should take €4bn out of its economy in successive years will do little good in keeping Europeans at work.