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THAT’S what you call troubled.

October 9, 2008

via BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Robert Peston.

Pakistan is a failing economy? Really?

Here are the lethal statistics about Iceland: the value of its economic output, its GDP, is about $20bn; but its big banks have borrowed some $120bn in foreign currencies.

Now that’s what I call leverage – and remember that’s just the overseas liabilities of its commercial banks.

If this were a business, and if it had no other borrowings (which of course Iceland does have), this would be a debt-to-ebitda ratio of 6.

Or to put it another way, Iceland simply doesn’t have the domestic earnings to service this kind of debt.

Which is why if the Icelandic government were to formally underwrite all these liabilities – which it might just have to do, given that other banks and financial institutions no longer want to touch Iceland with the longest barge-pole ever constructed – well its national-debt-to-GDP ratio would be at a level that make the UK in the 1970s look like a model of prudence.

And if Icelandic taxpayers actually had to service all that debt, well there wouldn’t be a lot left over for even the basics of life.

It’s a proper old mess.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 9, 2008 8:30 pm

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

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