Wonktastic Statistical Yearbook Released

Better than a John Grisham novel for policy wonks, the statistical yearbook of Ireland 2011 has been released from the CSO. Lots to dig into here, but I guess readers of the blog will dig into chapters 8, 9, and 16 on the economypublic finances, and prices first (links are to the chapter pdfs).

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

19 replies on “Wonktastic Statistical Yearbook Released”

The most interesting figures are those for REAL GDP (ie after inflation):

(1) Ireland’s REAL GDP in 2010 was 5 times its 1970 level – no other country in the EU comes anywhere close to this. Most of them haven’t even doubled REAL GDP in that period. The media-derided ‘Fianna Failures’ were in power for the vast majority of this period. I can only imagine what the growth in REAL GDP in that period would have been if they hadn’t been such ‘failures’.

(2) REAL GDP on the occasion of Michael D Higgins elevation to the Presidency in 2011 is 3 times what it was when the previous Labour President was elected in 1990.

(3) REAL GDP on the occasion of Dublin’s winning of the All-Ireland in 2011 is 2 times what it was when Dublin last won the All-Ireland in 1995. Touch wood, REAL GDP will have doubled again by the time they next win it.

The 2009 Economist “pocket world in figures” book has a figure of $52410 for GDP per head for Ireland . I guess the tide won’t be coming that far up the beach again for a number of years.

Whats with this GDP fetish.
If the entire country somehow spent 100% of our consumption on diseal & Food , had nothing left for investment and exported everything but the Kitchen sink how would that work out ?
It might show up as a impressive figure but it does not explain the workings of what most of us agree is a defective system.

You only export when you NEED TO EARN A INCOME – it does not increase your wealth , it reduces it.

Take a trip to London – they are in massive trade defecit , always have been – its because they can produce paper that other people respect for some funny reason.
We are just users of the stuff.

Irish economists suffer from a devastating form of poltical correctness which means they cannot interpret statistics with any degree of holistic understanding.
They really don’t understand end use consumption very well – which means when the Beamish comes out the other end its lost to their limited world view.
No wonder we are in the S£$T

@JTO – (1)would you like to comment on the ‘growth’ of the economy under FF for the years prior to 1970?
(2)Growth from the lowest of low bases in 1970 is hardly something to be shouting about.
(3)JTO conveniently omits the ‘false growth’ patterns under the last three FF led administrations and the devastation caused by their irresponsible construction led policies.
(4)FF had three attempts at wrecking the Irish economy – my goodness did they succeed on the third attempt!


As I said to OrdinaryMan on another thread, I am departing soon for weekend, so I regret that I am unable to do your queries justice.

However, for the record:

(1) The economy grew rapidly from 1958 to 1970, averaging around 4.5% annual growth in that time. I do not know what age you are. If you were alive in the 1960s, you’ll know that the Irish economy under Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch boomed as never before during that decade. The only reason I chose 1970 as the start point in my first post is because the CSO figures, in the publication that Stephen Kinsella linked to, only go back to 1970.

Taking the period 1958 to 2011 as a whole, that is 53 years. In that time there were 2 long periods of high growth: 1958 to 1982 and 1986 to 2007 and 2 periods of part negative growth and part sluggish growth: 1982 to 1986 and 2007 to 2011. Every country in the developed world has had recessions or periods of sluggish growth in that time. I am in the UK: in that time there were severe recessions in mid 70s, early 80s, early 90s, and 2007-2010. Ireland largely escaped the mid 70s and early 90s recessions. Try to stop thinking that every recession means the economy is wrecked. It isn’t. If it was wrecked in 1982 to 1986, how come it then trebled in size in the next couple of decades? Recessions come and go in every country. What distinguishes Ireland since 1958 is (a) the longevity of the periods of growth; the first one was 24 years from 1958 to 1982 and the second one was 21 years from 1986 to 2007 (b) the level of growth during those periods; arround 4.5% from 1958 to 1982 and around 5.5% from 1986 to 2007. Most other EU countries have averaged around 2% during their periods of growth, but have had just as many recessions, indeed more, than Ireland. Overall, taking the period 1958 to 2011, I calculate very roughly that the economy in 2011 is around 8.5 times its size in 1958. FF were in government for 80 per cent of that time.

(2) Growth between 1922 and 1958 was much less than between 1958 and 2011. That is not disputed. However, in mitigation, Ireland inherited a backward agricultural economy from the UK in 1922, with its only industrialised region being illegally partitioned off. Then, during that period there was (a) The Great Depression (b) The UK’s Economic War on Ireland in the 1930s (c) World War 2 (d) The UK’s cheap food policy post World War 2, where they subsidised their own food production and reduced prices for Ireland’s food exports to rock bottom. These events were not conducive to economic growth. In addition, let us not forget that bwetween 1922 and 1958, FG (or CmaG) led the government for nearly half the period and FF the other half. FF only became the dominant party after 1959 when it was credited (rightly or wrongly) with the two long periods of growth that I referred to in (1). However, revisionist historians from Dublin 4 academia-land have falsified history to make it appear that De Valera was dictator or Ireland continuously from independence until 1958 and that the relatively slow growth up to 1958 was all his fault. As I said, he was only Taoiseach for about half the time during that period.

Still puzzled by the discrepancy between the oil primary energy requirement & the dramatic rise in Transport final energy consumption.

Oil primary energy requirement 2009 : 7.75TOE
2010 : 7.05TOE
now the above is a predictable drop

Final energy transport sector 2009 : 5.08TOE
2010 : 6.04TOE
A dramatic rise!!!

I can only think of a few reasons
We imported very good quality crude in 2010 (think Libya)
Everybody shut off their oil central heating
The Luas / DART is running a 14 day week

Any thoughts from experts ?
Did we just burn more oil in electicity plants during 2009 ?


Well spotted. These final energy consumption (TFEC) numbers for 2010 look off-the-wall. The SEAI, which is responsible for energy stats, issued a report on security of supply earlier this and it didn’t have 2010 data. Eurostat doesn’t have them. And it’s not just transport. All sectors, except industry, show an increase in 2010. The y-o-y total has increased by nearly 14%.

Come on, admit it. You’re building a huge energy consuming space and time travel machine on the quiet 🙂

Yeah – residential is up again for 2010 also.
although maybe because people are sitting at home watching daytime tv.
This all goes with my pet theory that the Irish were far more efficient when they went to the pub 5 nights a week , although serious river pollution declined when we started listening to the puritanical health & safety thought police (positive & negative externalties I guess)

PS – come to think of it I felt faint underground rumblings while walking the Reeks recently……………..

Bertelsman Stiftung Google Translate Fairness in the OECD
Links to Graphic and Text in the linked overview.


Does anyone have insight into why we fare badly in Access to Education, Labour market inclusion, Intergeneraional Justice.


I first came to Ireland in the early 70s .I just had moved back from the US to Europe. To my eyes the country was incredibly poor, on par with Baltic countries nowadays.
Now in terms of private consumption, the Irish are much richer than France, Germany or Britain. It is not true yet in terms of public goods, but you will get there. The Irish economy has been a huge success story ,something to be proud of.

@ JohntheOptimist

There is a lot of truth in what you say and it is important that we observe the radical change that has taken place over the past 30 years.

But, the one issue that has not really been tackled is employment and the indigenous industrial base of the country. Ireland only sustains full employment when there is a boom in domestic demand. This came about through real wage increases (facilitated by a reckless approach to income tax) and cheap credit. We have a structural employment problem in this country that will not be resolved by the export fetish. This is not to deny the importance of trade, exports etc but it is secondary to the deep structural problem that few if any economists in Ireland want to talk about.

The problem as I see it today is twofold. One is that we are trying to manage and adjust an economy in a foreign currency and two, we are adopting a slash and burn approach to bring down the fiscal deficit. Both traditionally equated with under developed economies.

When the crisis hit most economists rushed to tell the government to cut, act fast, do it now, be bold. It was totally counter-productive and we are reaping the cost of this budget deficit fetish. We should have stood back and said – OK – what the hell has happened here, we have had 20 years of exponential growth. Where did it come from and how can we develop a coordinated response to restart this. It was only when this growth strategy was in place (and working) that we should have started talking about fiscal consolidation.


I first came to Ireland in the early 70s .I just had moved back from the US to Europe. To my eyes the country was incredibly poor, on par with Baltic countries nowadays.

JTO again:

What you say is undoubtedly correct, but, if you had arrived in 1958 or before, it would have been even poorer. I remember being shocked by the poverty when, as a child of 11, my parents took us for our first holiday to Galway, Limerick and Cork in 1960. And that’s not as if Tyrone, where we were coming from, was itself an El Dorado, but it was much richer than Galway, Limerick or Cork then. It is the opposite today. By the early 70s when you arrived, REAL GDP had nearly doubled from its 1958 level, so it was off the bottom. And it has now almost quintupled further since the early 70s. Likewise with population. In 1961, the population (of ROI) had fallen by 60 per cent since 1841. No other country in the world experienced similar. It has since recovered strongly, as the recent census showed.

In recent years, there has been a movement, originating from Dublin 4 media and academia circles, to rewrite and falsify history and to try to convince people that Ireland was a relatively rich country as part of the UK, but has somehow gone downhill since. Morgan Kelly was saying something along these lines in his Kilkenny sppech in August. It is, of course, the opposite of the truth. This movement to rewrite and falsify history is primarily political in its origin, rather than economic, a response to the conflict north of the border in recent decades. So, we need not discuss it on an economics forum like this one, other than to note that it is b*ll*cks.

@Aidan R

But, the one issue that has not really been tackled is employment and the indigenous industrial base of the country.

JTO again:

What you say again has a lot of truth. But, to my mind the cause is not primarily economic, but the result of the artificial partition of the country in 1922. The problem you describe did not really apply north of the border in pre-partition days. North of the border had lots of world-class domestic industry then; shipyards, engineering, linen, etc etc. These lingered on for a few decades after partition. I remember as a child in the 1950s being taken to Belfast to see what was described as ‘the biggest rope factory in the world’. Had there been no partition, these would have expanded and had spin-offs in other parts of the island. But, in the event, the artificial partition had the effect that all these world-class industries north of the border went down the tubes, and north of the border became de-industrialised. N. Ireland’s industrial structure today is largely a much inferior version of the R. Ireland’s. All the great (domestic) industries on which it built its name are gone, and there is the same dependance on foreign (mainly US) industrial investment, but with a far smaller proportion of the high-productivity industries and a far larger proportion of the low-productivity industries like clothing and textiles. I myself work for a US company, and am very much in favour of them. However I agree that more should be done to develop domestic industry. I merely argue that the chances of success in doing this are much greater if done an an all-island basis, rather than a partitionist basis.

@OC: “… … It is not true yet in terms of public goods, but you will get there.”

Yes, our economy has been a ‘success’, but as one of my econ professors was fond of saying, “There will be winners and there will be LOSERS (my emphasis), but the economy as a whole will be better off”. Yeah!

So who are the losers then? Lots of folk? And the winners? A few folk? This is the crunch. A lopsided success storey. And lopsided structures are – unstable like.

The great western Production-Consumption [PC] economies (US, UK and most of EU) made a surplus of stuff and sold it to overseas folk – not to themselves! Germany, currently, ‘exports’ a lot of its manufacturing stuff to other EU states, so the nett is that these EU states are consumers (importers if you will), and can only afford the imported stuff by cranking up their virtual credit spreadsheets – in euros! That’s plain unsustainable, and it has proved to be so. We now have a s***load of unpayable debts and nowt to pay them back with. Ok, so we have some agri stuff, but … …

The great western PC economies are past-tense. They have been outsourced to Chindia and other distant places to be ‘more productive’! Leaving us with the impossible task of re-employing our ‘losers’ with … … What? Social welfare transfers? And please spare me the political pap about a Knowledge Economy. Chindia can and will do this also. We (in the developed western economies) substituted surplus stuff creation for debt creation through the financial ponzi schemes of the FIRE economy. We’re done! Its back to the farm!

Exponential plot lines? For finite resources (inc. populations): these things inflect DOWNWARDS not if, or maybe, but ALWAYS! Check-out Seneca Cliff. Just needs time.

Anybody care to place a bet that we have not topped out on one of these inflection points? Actually, its not a point, but a longish plateau-like top, so you can easily be lulled into a dangerous sense of complacency.

Brian Snr.

CSO must have been using old figures for transport final energy consumption. Latest figures on SEAI’s website put the figure for 2010 at 4.7 ktoe not 6.04.

And 2010 was far colder than normal which might explain why residential energy was higher.

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