Despite earlier government assurances, taxpayer losses on bank bailouts are going to be huge. Yesterday, the IMF said that UK taxpayers can expect to lose £200bn, or 13.4% of our GDP.
Needless to say, the government's version is rather different. Indeed, they were so embarrassed by the IMF's figure that they actually forced them to withdraw it. And today's budget gave us the government's own authorised figure - 3.5% of GDP, or about £50bn.
That is an extraordinarily optimistic estimate. It's just a quarter of the original IMF figure, and even well under half the IMF's "corrected" figure of £130bn, reported in the Times.
But even more striking is the way Darling describes his estimate. In paragraph 2.28 of Budget 2009, he says:
"Reflecting the principle of transparency, the fiscal forecasts include a provisional estimate for the high end of a range for the net impact of unrealised losses on financial sector interventions, equal to 3½ per cent of GDP."
Well, it may be the high end of his range, but it transparently isn't even at the low end of anyone else's.