Effective Collaboration in Multidisciplinary Research

One of the points made often in relation to improving science, technology and innovation policy is the need for more effective multidisciplinary research. The ESRI is organising a Training Workshop focused on understanding multidisciplinary research collaboration and learning how to make it more effective. The Workshop will take place on 3 November 2009, 9:00-13:00. More details can be found here. Places are limited to 30 participants including researchers and policy analysts. Registration before 25 October 2009 here.

Lenihan: Economists and Our National Mediocrity

Yesterday morning on the Sunday Business show on Today FM, Minister Lenihan commented on the anti-NAMA economists (podcast here). Among his comments were the following:

What I notice about them is that there’s about forty of them. There’s about two hundred economists in all in the state. Most of the rest of them have approached me privately and said that these gentlemen and ladies are wrong. But of course they are not prepared to say so publicly because in Irish academic class, people don’t criticise other people’s books. That’s part of our national mediocrity. If you take the Irish historians and someone publishes a bad history book, you won’t find any reviews in the paper pointing out how bad that book is. If you look at the press in the United Kingdom or the United States, you’ll see robust academic criticism of others works but we’re reluctant to do it. We’re a small country, we have to meet people again, we have to go to other people’s funerals and we know and we don’t want to put the cross on someone even when they’re saying something that’s fundamentally wrong.

So Minister Lenihan is now saying that at least 80 economists have approached him privately to disagree with those who have criticised NAMA. He is stating that there is a silent majority of economists who support his approach to the banking crisis but are not willing to say so publicly because they are scared of insulting the anti-NAMA economists.

I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this. Is it likely that the Minister has been receiving huge amounts of anonymous support from intimidated economists? Is the Minister’s characterisation of the absence of disagreement or debate among Irish economists an accurate one? If we suffer from a national mediocrity, are the anti-NAMA economists part of it? Is the Minister attempting to encourage debate or to stifle it?

What Determines the Location Choice of Foreign Investment in R&D ?

There is an ongoing discussion on this blog about attracting foreign investment in R&D in Ireland. In a recent research paper we analysed the location decisions of foreign affilates in the R&D sector incorported in the European Union over 1999-2006. Our research results suggest that, on average the location probability increases with market potential, agglomeration economies, R&D intensity and proximity to centres of  research excellence.  The determinants of the location choice of R&D foreign affiliates vary depending on the country of origin of the foreign investor. Thus, it appears that agglomeration externalities and business R&D intensity had a higher positive effect on the propensity to locate in an EU region in the case of multinationals from North America in comparison to European based multinationals. Proximity to centres of research excellence had a positive and significant effect on the location choice for North American R&D multinationals but no significant effect in the case of  European R&D multinationals.

Our research results suggest a number of policy implications. First, policy aiming at increasing the R&D intensity of regions are likely to foster the attractiveness of regions to R&D foreign investment. Second, positive externalities from clustering of R&D foreign affiliates outweigh competition effects. Third, given the heterogeneous behaviour of foreign investors, differentiated policy depending on target partner countries can increase the success of such policies.

Free Speech and the Green Jersey

Last night’s Week in Politics Show on RTE provided a fascinating illustration of how bizarre the debate over the National Asset Management Agency has become.

Presenter Sean O’Rourke introduced a report on the Dublin Economics Workshop in Kenmare (18 minutes in) by quoting Denis O’Brien’s comments about academic economists spending all of their time twittering and taking out ads in the newspaper. The report itself showed Morgan Kelly criticising NAMA on the grounds that it relied on extreme upper tail optimistic assumptions and that it would still leave them undercapitalised.

The report then showed Pat McArdle, former economist with Ulster Bank, responding to Morgan Kelly as follows (22 minutes in):

Freedom of speech is fine and we’re all in favour of it. But there are sometimes when you have to temper things in the greater interest.

Following the report, presenter Sean O’Rourke effectively endorsed this line of reasoning, immediately putting the following question to Pat Rabbitte: (24 minutes in)

Is there something to be said, and this is a theme that Garret FitzGerald has touched on in the last couple of weeks in his column, that there may be a case for people to pull on the green jersey as it were, set aside some of their more extreme doubts about NAMA and just see it through and give it a fair wind?

So this is what it’s come to. People can object to the government’s policies on the budget or health or education or whatever but objections to NAMA—an initiative that involves spending up to €54 billion of public money—must be condemned as unpatriotic.

In a supposedly open and democratic republic, this idea—that you should refrain from objecting to a government’s economic policies because this criticism runs counter to the national interest—would normally be considered morally repugnant. It says a lot about this country that this opinion is now being regularly aired by mainstream commentators in our print and broadcast media.

The programme had plenty of other stomach-churning stuff such as McArdle’s claims that Kelly had just dreamt up his criticisms of NAMA in the last week, junior Minister Dick Roche’s claims that Morgan was being “brittle” in response to McCardle, followed up by bizarre stuff about how this put him in mind of the need for more one-armed economists. And best of all, when Pat Rabbitte failed to agree to pull on the green jersey, O’Rourke told him:

But coming back to NAMA, they’re operating on the best available advice from say the head of the Department of Finance, from experts in Europe, from the European Central Bank, from the new Governor of the Central Bank.

Ah yes, the European Central Bank and the new Governor. Sean must have forgotten about Bo Lundgren and the IMF.

Debate on Wage Cuts

The Irish Times features a debate on wage cuts between representatives of IBEC and ICTU: you can find it here.

It is open to question whether framing the policy issue as involving adversarial conflict between employers and workers is especially useful. Rather, it involves primarily a trade-off between lower current average incomes for higher future average incomes.  If the ‘debate’ format is to be followed, a more interesting lineup might be to include a representative of those not currently working (today’s unemployed, emigrants, students and others not participating in the labour force).

Steven Davis on Job Creation

Greg Mankiw links to an interesting article by Chicago Economist Steven J Davis on policies to foster job creation in the US. The article is short and to the point, and is for the most part relevant to the Irish debate. It is mostly sceptical of employer subsidies and puts forward, among other things, reduction in the minimum wage and vigorous experiments with back-to-work programmes.

Hard to Deny Now that NAMA is a Developer Rescue Plan

I have been publicly critical of the idea of a “bad bank” plan in which the government overpays for bad assets since a number of months prior to the publication of Peter Bacon’s report. I have consistently objected to the plan on the grounds that it is a bailout of bank shareholders by the government, involving a large direct transfer of funds from the taxpayers to shareholders.

However, at no point have I suggested that NAMA would be a bailout for developers. I have always believed the Minister for Finance’s assurances that the developers who owed money to the Irish taxpayer would be followed to the Gates of Hell in order to get the money back. This, from the Minister’s appearance in August at the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service, would be a pretty typical assurance:

The draft legislation also contains a number of provisions which will assist NAMA in its dealings with developers and ensure that every last cent due to the taxpayer is pursued vigorously.

Now, however, we find out how vigorous this pursuit will be. In its draft business plan, NAMA has told the public, and thus property developers, that it expects this vigorous pursuit of the €77 billion that NAMA will be owed to yield principal repayments of €1 billion in 2010 and 2011 and €2.5 billion in 2012. Only in 2013 does NAMA expect the vigorous pursuit to start making real inroads because, at that point, as if by magic, €7.5 billion per year in principal repayments start to pour in.

What this draft plan means is that the developers who owe us €77 billion have just been told that we have no plans to recoup this money any time soon. Effectively, the developers have been told that they can start paying back the money in 2013. Now we’ve been told that NAMA will haul in the developers and look for business plans and the like. However, in light of NAMA’s own business plan, it will be pretty hard for them to quibble with a developer who offers them a plan of “I’ll wait until 2013 and sure things will be grand then.”

It is with great reluctance, then, that I have to say that it’s now pretty hard to see this plan as anything other than a deliberate decision to show extreme forbearance to the property developers who got us into this mess in the first place.

Also, the following is now a fact. This government has told developers that as long as its in office (the latest date for an election is 2012) they will barely have to pay back any money. Interpret this fact how you wish.

Annual statement on the euro area

The European Commission has released its annual report on the euro area  – this is very helpful in providing a comparative perspective on Ireland in relation to the other member states of the euro area and in communicating the ‘Brussels view’ on economic events.

The full report and other materials are available here.

NAMA Haven’t Seen Loan Files

From page 2 of the draft NAMA business plan:

It is important to emphasise that much of the information regarding the prospective NAMA portfolio included in this draft Business Plan is based on aggregate data which has been provided by the various institutions. The interim NAMA team has not had direct access to individual transaction records and loan files and will not be in a position to verify the integrity of the data until it carries out its own due diligence on each of the loans proposed for acquisition.

So have any of the famous forms requesting 300 pieces of information on individual loans been filled out? And if they have, where are they? When is whoever is keeping them planning to hand them over to NAMA?

NAMA Business Plan Default Rate Assumptions

NAMA’s draft business plan has many bizarre aspects. Chief among them, however, is the claim that only 20% of the loans purchased by NAMA will default, with the other 80% of loans eventually paying off in full. The plan justifies this as follows:

Over a five year period in the early 1990s, one UK bank experienced a default rate of less than 10% on its whole book. Given the concentrated nature of the prospective NAMA portfolio and the risk of a prolonged recession, a 20% default rate assumption has been made.

Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey on Morning Ireland stated that the UK bank in question was Barclays and that this comparison means that the 20% default rate assumption was “prudent” and “conservative” and “much bigger than it needs to be.”

So the argument here is that because the default rate on Barclays’s total loan book in the 1990s was less than 10%, this means that it’s ok to assume that the default rate on NAMA’s assets will only be 20%.

I think this is perhaps the most odious comparison we have heard yet in the NAMA debate. The Barclay’s loan book being referred to (its “whole book”) included all sorts of loans with low average default rates. However, the NAMA loan book is a selected class of assets—property and development loans—specifically chosen because the losses on these loans are so large they are threatening the solvency of the Irish banking system.

The reasoning underlying the default rate assumption is akin to asserting that because only 10 percent of men are taller than six foot, it’s reasonable to assume that no more than 20 percent of a basketball team will be taller than six foot.

The fact is that NAMA only exists because this particular class of assets is performing so badly that a radical state intervention is being planned to save the banks that made these loans. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t recall such interventions being planned in relation to the total loan books of UK banks in the 1990s.

The bottom line here is that it is patently clear that far more than 20% of these loans will fail to be paid back in full.  That this claim can be released to the public in the expectation of being taken seriously is an indication that we have really moved into cloud-cuckoo territory.

As an aside, I’d note that Fahey also stated that the banks “were borrowing the money at 1.5%”. This is the famous 1.5% that is the initial interest rate that the government is paying to the banks. Yet again, we see another example of government spokesmen who don’t even understand the basic mechanics of NAMA in the sense of who is lending money to whom and at what rate.

Convery defends the Green New Deal

in today’s Irish Times

Convery starts with stating that “raising the price of carbon is a necessary and sufficient step for tackling global warming” […] if and only if the tax was high enough to achieve the necessary reductions”. This stretches the definition of “necessary”. The carbon tax should, of course, be equal to the marginal damage cost. Such a tax does not lead to the emission reductions required by a forthcoming EU directive. Perhaps that is a sign that the EU is overambitious. But even if you except the writ of the EU, then we should still meet the EU-wide target at a cost that is minimum at the EU-level — and for Ireland not accept a cost that goes beyond that. This means that the carbon tax should equal the ETS permit price. Not less. Not more. Equal.

Convery then argues that, because methane from agriculture cannot be monitored, the uniform price principle is broken. True. He then seems to imply that because it is broken anyway, it does not matter to break it further: Because the tax on methane is zero, the price of carbon dioxide need not be uniform. This is plain nonsense.

Convery does not repeat the recommendation by Comher SDC that the carbon tax revenue should be used to subsidise energy efficiency. That would indeed be wasting tax money on double regulation.

Convery does argue that “[s]ubsidies […] be directed exclusively at enhancing fuel efficiency in poor households.” I have argued that the monies for this can more appropriately be found in the budget for fuel allowances.

Convery finally argues for a stimulus package of 2% of GDP, but does not state where that money should come from. The Comher SDC report recommends more borrowing and using the capital of NAMA, Anglo-Irish and the pension funds.

The affordability of a stimulus aside, investing in renewable energy is not the best stimulus. Climate change may be a problem for Ireland in 100 years, but extra borrowing surely poses a problem in 10 years time. The Irish economy needs jobs and capital, while energy is capital-intensive and labour-extensive. Renewable energy may create export opportunities in 10 or 20 years times, but we need to increase exports this year and next.

If there were money for a stimulus, then we should slash labour taxes. If we cannot slash labour taxes, then we’ll have to slash wages.

NAMA Business Plan

NAMA has released a draft business plan. It is a truly extraordinary document. To summarise, those who thought that NAMA would largely be a property fund—closing on delinquent developers and selling on the assets—are wrong. It appears that NAMA’s game plan is to wait a few years and then the vast majority of the developers will be able to pay back their loans in full.

Among the highlights:

  1. NAMA is assumed to make a net profit of €5.48 billion by the end of its anticipated lifetime of ten years.
  2. However, contrary to the million times that we have been told that NAMA will “wash its face” on an ongoing basis, it is projected that NAMA will pay out €16 billion in interest payments on its debt but will receive €12 billion in interest income on the loans acquired.
  3. In addition, fees and expenses will add up to €2.64 billion over ten years.
  4. The profit of €5.48 billion stems from NAMA recouping payments of €66.1 billion from loan repayments and asset recoveries to pay off the €54 billion in loans issued.
  5. Interestingly, from Table 5’s cash flow projections, the only year in which NAMA is not projected to lose money on an income flow basis is 2010 when an interest outflow of €1.3 billion will be offset by interest income of, em, €1.3 billion. Table 7’s “budget projections” attempts to show that NAMA will make a profit in 2010-2012. The difference between this and Table 5 is “The interest income projections in this table include the impact of contractual rolled-up interest on land and development loans in addition to interest income from cash flow-producing assets.” So any “profit” reported will be of a phantom variety.
  6. From Page 10: “The projections assume that, of the €77 billion nominal value of loans acquired, €62 billion will be repaid by borrowers and that loan defaults or debt restructuring will occur on €15 billion (a rate of 20%). Over a five year period in the early 1990s, one UK bank experienced a default rate of less than 10% on its whole book. Given the concentrated nature of the prospective NAMA portfolio and the risk of a prolonged recession, a 20% default rate assumption has been made. It is also assumed that €4 billion will be realised from the sale of underlying assets secured by the defaulting loans of €15 billion. These are conservative and prudent assumptions.” Yes you read that right. 80% of the loans will be repaid in full.
  7. The 80% who pay back their loans will be in no rush to do so. Repayments will be €1 billion next year and the year after, €2.5 billion in 2012. Then in 2013 (after the next election!) the loan repayments will start arriving in buckets—€7.5 billion every year.
  8. What if more than 20% of the loans can’t be paid back? The document tells us: “Stress-testing of this assumption indicates that the default rate would have to increase to 31% to erode in full NAMA’s projected Net Present Value gain of €4.8 billion.” Feel better now?
  9. NAMA will acquire €14.6 billion in derivatives positions, mainly interest rate swaps.
  10. By the turn of the year, NAMA will only have taken on 10 loans with a total value of €16 billion.
  11. NAMA’s potential new lending: “NAMA will inherit any commitments entered into by the banks as far as the drawdown of funds is concerned; it is estimated that undrawn commitments on loans transferring to NAMA are of the order of €6.5 billion.” This exceeds the €5 billion limit placed on it in the legislation. The document says “the limit can be adjusted by order of the Minister and Resolution of the Dáil, thus ensuring parliamentary accountability for borrowing levels.”

Anyone in the Green Party up for a revote?

ESRI against Welfare Cuts – but What’s a ‘Cut’?

In its QEC released today, the ESRI notes that the fall in the CPI has been driven in part by declining mortgage interest costs, from which those in the lowest income deciles benefit little, since they typically do not have mortgages (pg 39).

ESRI goes on to recommend (pg 43) that there should be no nominal cut in social welfare rates of payment. On RTE’s Morning Ireland, ESRI’s Alan Barrett reiterated this recommendation, adding that the Special Group’s suggestion of a 5% cut relied on the CPI fall, 6.5% in the year to September, and that this fall was driven substantially by mortgage cost reductions.

In its report, the Special Group based its recommendations regarding Social Welfare rates of payment solely on the HICP, which is down 3% in the year to September, precisely because it was aware of the mortgage cost issue. We did not rely on the larger fall in the CPI, whose shortcomings in this regard I pointed out in a QEC article (editor: Alan Barrett) as far back as September 2007.

The Special Group wrote

Rates of payment in the Social Welfare system were increased across the board by approximately 3% in the budget of October 2008. Since that time, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has fallen by 5.3% (up to May 2009), while the HICP measure of inflation has fallen by 1.6%. The principal difference between the two is mortgage interest on owner-occupied housing, which up to May 09 had been falling quickly in line with ECB interest rates decreases. It is known from the Household Budget Survey that this item is a minor component in living expenses for those income groups most reliant on social transfers, for whom the HICP, which has declined less than the CPI, is more relevant. Nonetheless, and relying only on the HICP, the real value of weekly and monthly Social Welfare payment rates would have risen in real terms since October even if no increase had been granted in the budget. (pg 186, Vol 2).

The intention behind the Group’s recommendation was to bring the real value of rates of payment back to their level of about Summer 2008, in part on the basis that the 3 to 3.3% increase implemented in January 2009 was based on expectations of continuing consumer price inflation which have not materialised. It was emphatically not based on ignoring the effects on redistribution of complexities in the construction and application of price index numbers. Developments in prices since the report was released in July have not altered the situation – prices have fallen a little further.

If someone can show that HICP, with weights from the lowest one or two deciles, is down less than 2% since Summer 2008, they have a case against the Special Group. Otherwise they are arguing for the maintenance of a real increase in rates. This is a legitimate political position, of course.

Poll tax bad, water charge good

Yesterday’s Independent had a headline on water charges. RTE ran with it too. The story is that a flat rate water charge will be introduced. Water charges are good in principle as they put a price on a scarce good. Flat charges — every household pays the same — are a bad idea. Flat charges do not incentivise water conservation. This is just a poll tax by a different name.

The Renewed Programme for Government also mentions water charges. It suggests a free allowance, and a proportional tax for any household that uses more than the free amount. This is much better than a flat rate, but still not perfect.

I would charge households for every cubic metre of water that they use. This is a consumption tax, and therefore regressive. I would repair the damage to the income distribution by increasing benefits and tax credits by an amount that is equal to the water tax rate times 100 litre per person per day — the amount of water needed to wash your clothes and flush the toilet.

Water charges require water meters. I would charge households without meters for the average water use of unmetered households (about 450 l/p/d) and households with meters for the actual water use. If the water charge is announced well in advance (say in Dec 2009 for Jan 2011), meters will rapidly be installed by those below average. This will drive up the average, so that more meters will be installed.

People on benefits would need a voucher for a meter.

ESRI Budget Perspectives 2010 conference

This ESRI conference is taking place this morning.

The new Governor Patrick Honohan delivered an opening address which provides an interesting analysis of the Irish economic and fiscal situation: his speech is here.

The ESRI has also released its new quarterly forecast: here.

The conference also features a number of research papers, which can be found here.

In addition,  there was a roundtable on the Commission on Taxation Report: my contribution to that roundtable is available here.

Civil Service Pay Cuts Not the Answer

Dave Thomas (general secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants) argues that pay cuts for civil servants are ‘not the answer’ :  the article is here.

Without having the time today to fully discuss this contribution, I will note the following sentence:

“First and foremost, public servants did not cause the economic crisis.”

This type of argument has been used by many interest groups to argue against expenditure cuts of various forms. However, it is also the case that ‘group X did not inflate the property bubble’ and the problem is that the windfall tax revenues during the bubble period allowed a rapid increase in public sector pay and many expenditure lines.  The goal now is to restructure the economy and the public finances in order to undo the the adverse impact of the whole bubble-crisis episode and the relevant benchmark is not the level of earnings or public expenditure at the peak of the bubble but the appropriate levels of earnings and spending in order to ensure that Ireland can grow along a sustainable, non-bubble path.

The Green Budget

The Renewed Programme for Government may reflect the shifted balance of power. The document surely has a lot of green language. Italics are my comments.

We will revise our Capital Investment programme to take into account new budget realities and the need for us to meet our mandatory climate change emissions reduction targets.

Code for slash investment except in energy and public transport.

Introduce new targeted and efficient taxation policies which encourage sustainable enterprise development and the creation of sustainable employment in the Green and Smart Economy.

Code for tax breaks for companies that adhere to Green Dogma?

We will extend our system of Accelerated Capital Allowances to develop the Green Economy into areas such as renewables, waste disposal and water usage.

Sure. Tax breaks for companies that are friendly with greens.

Introduce Carbon Tax in Budget 2010. The principles underlying the carbon levy to be introduced in 2010 will be:

  • those most at risk of fuel poverty will be protected,
  • we improve the fuel efficiency of our current housing stock,
  • the relative tax burden on labour will be reduced.

I’m in favour of a carbon tax, and for using the revenue to cut labour costs and increasing benefits to compensate low-income households. Using the revenue to improve the housing stock is bad policy (double regulation).

Introduce charging for treated water use that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied. It will be based on a system where households are allocated a free basic allowance, with charging only for water use in excess of this allowance. In keeping with the allocation of greater responsibility to local government, Local Authorities will set their own rates for water use.

Water charges are clever, but require water meters. Bilinear taxes are a bad idea.

We will mandate the €200 million “Green Fund” established in AIB & BOI to prioritise the following activities:

  • Help existing mechanical/electrical engineering firms to become Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) providing managed energy services to public buildings by providing capital to install equipment on client sites;
  • Supplement the grants schemes run by Sustainable Energy Ireland (€50m Home Energy Scheme) by lending to homes and businesses that are retrofitting energy efficient equipment in their homes/businesses.

This is meddling in supposedly independent, commercial enterprises. It is also picking winners. Bad idea.

Participating institutions in NAMA will be obliged to offer a deposit account to consumers which will be ringfenced for lending to Green projects.


We will put in place new public procurement procedures and guidelines to ensure that green criteria are at the centre of all state procurement.


We will ensure that new public procurement guidelines for food include criteria based on giving greater weight to sustainable local produce, seasonal menus and organic production, building on good practice in other EU countries in this area.

More expensive food for civil servants.

We will prioritise research and technologies that offer strong development opportunities in the area of water management, leaks, measurement, metres etc.

This is mature technology. Little need for research.

We will work with the ESB and international motor companies to see a deployment of some 6,000 electric vehicles over the next three years.

Too much too soon. And isn’t ESB a commercial company?

We will present a plan for a high voltage off-shore electricity grid as part of the wider European electricity ‘Supergrid’ so that in the future we can become an energy-exporting nation.

Never mind that production costs of electricity in Ireland are higher than elsewhere.

We will introduce new energy demand reduction targets for energy utilities, thus allowing the customer to “save as they pay” through energy efficient measures.

Double regulation. A carbon tax will do just that.

Ensure the achievement of the target of 5% of land in organic agriculture and meet the growing demand for domestically produced organic produce by providing adequate resources and supports for the achievement of the target, with a focus on import substitution in areas where Ireland is under producing at present e.g. horticulture. Beginning in 2010, and rising in subsequent years, stepping up supports for the Organic Farming Scheme for conversion to organic production, Capital Grants for the Organic Sector and Non-Capital costs.

Interesting language. There is an apparent demand for organic produce, but supply needs to be supported nonetheless.

Declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants.

Green Dogma.

We will overhaul and significantly enhance the current range of programmes and supports to facilitate the attainment of the target of 17% forestry cover by 2030 and contribute to meeting our climate change

The Emerald Isle will be greener still, and will be renamed as the Emeralder Isle.

We will Continue the record levels of investment in water infrastructure, creating and supporting thousands of jobs in the provision of quality water and the prevention of pollution in rivers and groundwater.

This is hard needed for drinking water. Surface and groundwater quality are okay, and improvement can wait.

We will reduce water leakage from municipal systems in line with international best practice.

More investment in water infrastructure; less money for the rest.

We will place a cap on incineration capacity to prevent waste being drawn to incineration which could otherwise have gone to recycling, having regard tothe recommendations of the International Review of Waste Policy.

Green Dogma.

We will use producer responsibility to reduce levels of packaging waste generated and increase the target for recycling of such waste to 75% by 2013, in line with the recommendations of the international review of waste policy.

Higher costs for producers, higher prices for consumers.

We will introduce preferential parking/charging spaces for electric cars.

Micromanagement, double regulation, badly targeted regulation.

We will allocate a significant portion of the budget on road improvement projects to the provision of new footpaths to allow pedestrians to walk in greater safety and comfort.

Hoping that the commuter belt will walk to work?

We will reverse the CIE policy of excluding and limiting bicycle carrying capacity on interurban trains and buses and ensure all new train units have a more extensive bicycle carrying capacity.


We will develop a Bray to Balbriggan cycle and pedestrian route, and other similar routes such as Oranmore to Barna, as major tourism and commuter facilities.

Oh Ireland. One was thinking that one was reading the renewed programme for the NATIONAL government, but one mistakenly picked up the programme of the village council.

We will raise awareness of Building Energy Ratings (BER), by making it mandatory to display BERs wherever a property is advertised for sale or to let, including signage and printed/online advertising.

This is an interesting one. At present, one must have a BER if one wants to sell or let a house but one is under no obligation to show the BER to anyone, least of all the prospective buyer or renter. This is a good move.

When The Levy Breaks

When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay.
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan


The new Programme for Government document contains the government’s last approach to convincing the Greens, and to a lesser extent the general public, that NAMA will not be a costly exercise for the tax payer: A commitment to include a post-dated levy in the NAMA legislation.

I’ll try to boil the problems I see with this approach down to four observations.

Continue reading “When The Levy Breaks”

New Program for Government

The new agreed program for government (which, along with NAMA, will undoubtedly be passed by the party faithful this afternoon) is available

Among the many things it is planning to achieve is a Smart Green economy, protecting of minks and the trans-gendered, promotion of a rural pubs food trail, prevention of the introduction of university fees, developing Ireland as an international centre for cloud computing, maintaining grants from the Irish Film Board, supporting the introduction of a Language Act in Northern Ireland, and looking into locating the Abbey to the GPO. And integrated ticketing of course—this time they mean it. 

Sounds good, eh?

Public Lecture – James Smith (RAND)

On the 15th of October 2009, UCD will award the Ulysses medal to Professor James Smith, former head of the Labour and Population Centre at RAND and two-time recipient of the National Institute of Aging Merit Award. Professor Smith’s lecture will take place in the Conway Lecture Theatre in the UCD Conway Institute at 4pm. The title of the lecture is “Effects of Childhood Mental and Physical Health on Adult Socioeconomic Status”. There will be coffee both before and after the lecture. Those wishing to attend, please rsvp to geary@ucd.ie

Further details of Professor’s Smiths work are available on the webpages below.