Foreign payments surplus recorded in first quarter

Figures for balance of payments show rebalancing of economy continues

Computer services exports – the biggest services export – stood at €9.4 billion in the first quarter. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Computer services exports – the biggest services export – stood at €9.4 billion in the first quarter. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 01:00


The surplus on Ireland’s balance of international payments stood at €1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2013, according to the CSO – the first time since 1999 that a surplus was recorded in the first quarter. For timing reasons, the first quarter trade surplus tends to be lower than other quarters.

The balance of payments figures include earnings for exports and payments for imports, along with income accruing to Irish residents from their foreign assets and income payments to foreigners from their Irish assets.

The figures, which are not seasonally adjusted and are calculated on a cash basis (unlike the national accounts, also released yesterday) suggest that the economy continues to rebalance. It ran large deficits at the height of the property bubble, which were funded by borrowing from abroad.


Accumulated flows
As a result of these accumulated flows over time, the stock of Irish residents’ foreign liabilities now far exceeds their assets. As of the end of the first quarter of 2013, foreign liabilities were €176 billion greater than foreign assets when the balance sheets of Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre is excluded.

At the end of the first quarter, Irish residents (excluding the IFSC) owned €521 billion in foreign assets, but had €697 billion in foreign liabilities. The balance of payments numbers also provide the most detailed breakdown of the composition of services exports, which exceeded the value of goods exports for the first time last year.

In the first quarter, computer services exports – the biggest services export – stood at €9.4 billion.

This represented a decline on the previous quarter but an increase on the same quarter in 2012.