Jan 27th Conference on Irish Economy – UPDATE

Just an update on the planned conference on the economy, part of a sequence of Dublin Economic Workshop meetings in collaboration with the Universities (in this case UCD Geary Institute and UL).

Firstly – venue.   We had planned a city hotel but (a) demand, and (b) lack of appropriate supply, has caused us problems.   So we are pleased to have booked the Conference Centre at Croke Park for the event.  Details on the venue are here – parking (lots), transport (lots) and wifi too for your iPads.

Secondly – RSVPs.   Thanks for those that replied to emma.barron@ucd.ie to give your details.   If you have, you are DEFINITELY on the list (just the volume of response means that Emma has not managed to reply to all, plus she was perhaps going to have to cull the list due to capacity issues (she has a black belt – I kid you not!)).   Due to her efforts at getting the venue we are fine and in fact would like to encourage more of you to come along – again RSVP to Emma.   One favour – if you do RSVP, come along.  While this is free to all to attend, it is not free for the organizers so we may be able to adjust the rooms booked etc.   Also, while we will DEFINITELY NOT be providing lunch but there will be some catering on the day (coffee etc) so it would be great to have pretty clear figures for all of that stuff.

Thirdly – webcasting etc.   We will record and upload after the event – youtube and through the Geary Institute iTunes ‘channel’.   We hope to webcast live but not certain at this point.   We will set a hashtag on twitter and will use the Institute twitter account on the day (@ucdgearyinst) to encourage interaction from those who can’t make it, from those outside the country etc.

Finally – latest draft of the programme is below.  We will update titles etc as we go along.

Thanks again for the patience and the support – RSVP please to emma.barron@ucd.ie, and see you there!

DEW Conference on Irish Economic Policy

Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin, January 27th 2012


Registration and Opening


Economic Policy and Evaluation

Property Market

Chair: Donal DeButleir (IFPRC)

Robert Watt (Department PER)

Tom Healy (CERU)

Frances Ruane (ESRI)

Chair: Stephen Kinsella (UL)

Ronan Lyons (Oxford) – “Residential Site Value Tax in Ireland: Land Values, Implementation & Revenues.”

Michelle Norris (UCD)

Rob Kitchin (NUIM) – “Prospects for the Irish Property Market.”






Chair: Minister Joan Burton T.D.

David Bell (Stirling)

Aedin Doris (Maynooth)

Philip O’Connell (ESRI) – “The Impact of Training Programme Type and Duration on the Employment Chances of the Unemployed in Ireland.”

Chair: Kevin Denny (UCD)

Orla Doyle (UCD) – “Early Educational Investment as an Economic Recovery Strategy.”

Alan Barrett/Irene Mosca (ESRI) – “The Costs of Emigration to the Individual: Evidence from Ireland’s Older Adults.”

Brendan Walsh (UCD) –“Well Being and Economic Conditions in Ireland.”




Banking and Euro

Economic Recovery – Can Competition, Regulation and Privatisation Help?

Chair: Constantin Gurdgiev (TCD)

Brian Lucey (TCD) – “Banking in Ireland – Back to the Future.”

Frank Barry (TCD) – “Rectifying Design Flaws in the Euro Project”

Karl Whelan (UCD) – “Scenarios for the Euro Crisis.”

Chair: Cathal Guiomard (CAR)

Richard Tol (Sussex) – “Energy Regulation in Ireland – Some Current Weaknesses and Lessons for Recovery.”

John Fingleton (UK Office of Fair Trading) – “Economic Growth – How Can Competition Policy Help?”

Doug Andrew (former London Airport regulator) – “Governance, Ownership and Reform.”




Fiscal Policy

Chair: Dan O’Brien (Irish Times)

Philip Lane (TCD) – “The Fiscal Responsibility Bill.”

John McHale (NUIG) – “Strengthening Ireland’s Fiscal Institutions.”

Seamus Coffey (UCC) – “Current and Capital Expenditure: Getting the Balance Right.”

Colm McCarthy (UCD) – “Public Capital Investment and Fiscal Stabilization.”


Panel Session on Irish Economy

11 replies on “Jan 27th Conference on Irish Economy – UPDATE”


top marks for being the first one in with that – I had given it at least 30 minutes on a friday night where Madonna was on Graham Norton but well ahead of the pack. Free registration and a coffee for you on the day!


thanks yes – and improved based on the comments (some of them!) from our first posting on it. We definitely have got a better spread of views and themes, and hope to keep refining it.

Nice job with the tweaks!

Although still no Morgan Kelly…

Nice touch with the WiFi – throw up an open thread up on this blog on the day, take a feed from the hash tag and encourage people to fire question topics in. This would allow the chair to steer the conversations into particular areas of interest for the live and online, and subsequent recording and offline, audiences.

Will there be dedicated backchannel for attendees?

Expect a very large number of ‘no-shows’ on the day. When there is no charge for the Conference and one only has to send an email to register … well it’s not a pricing mechanism conducive to eliminating those who will definitely attend versus those who, in a rush of enthusiasm, send an email.

If, on the day, you get all the numbers of those who registered then I will burn every economics and business textbook I still have in my possession.

P.S. I registered but I will send an email before Wednesday evening next if I find I cannot attend.

P.P.S. If I was devising a pricing mechanism for this Conference I would have insisted on a €100 charge to register (payable by LASER or Credit Card) which would then be refunded on the day of the Conference IF YOU TURN UP.

@Colm Harmon,

This event looks like it’s going to be an enormous success. You and your colleagues organising this deserve a huge vote of thanks from all of us with an interest in economic policy in Ireland. And we seem to be legion.

It does, indeed, appear that you have taken, at least, some of, the comments on the previous thread on board. (I suspect the length of mine caused eyes to glaze over or provoked some unease that most people prefer to suppress or ignore.) However, at the end of the thread, and at the end of a comment on property taxation, Ronan L made a statement that is both a salutary warning and crucial piece of advice to all those advancing and debating policy proposals:

“But we at least need to be frank to ourselves about which interest groups we’re favouring – at the cost of everyone else – and why.”

My response was a follows:
“Excellent point. But who will fund the research examining these trade-offs between various interest groups and how they might be crafted in the public interest? Who will perform this research free from the influence of the various interest groups? How will its value and relevance be secured in the public policy sphere? How will sufficient traction be secured to ensure that it will receive the consideration it would merit in the policy-making process?”

..and, not surprisingly, response came there none.

These questions are hardly ever addressed and this seems to be for two reasons. First, economics as a discipline is locked in to the narrow canon of neoclassical economic with its focus on firms and individuals as dessicated calculating machines and governments doing all sorts of things intended to ensure these machines function efficiently to achieve their objectives. (And, yes, I know there is a huge amount of work being done in all sorts of areas such as behavioural economics, evolutionary economics, the economics of public choice, etc., but all these are treated as sub-disciplines that will have to be battered and hammered until they fit in to the mainstream canon.)

Secondly, and related to this (with particular relevance in the Irish context), the neoclassical strait-jacket, with its focus on these dessicated calculating machines, prevents economists from getting to grips with the actual process of policy formulation when they advance policy proposals.
In economic terms, most citizens are defined by their profession, occupation or economic activity. This is true for those who are unemplyed, retired or in further education. And there is a plethora of professional, occupational and civil society associations across all sectors advancing the narrow, sectional economic interests of all these different groups, businesses and activities – all jostling to advance their interests ahead of those of others or seeking to defend their interests against depradation by others.

Most citizens are conflicted. As taxpayers and final consumers, who pay for everything bar exports, they have an interest in low taxes, low costs and low prices for the widest possible range of high quality goods and services. But as producers or suppliers, or in terms of their economic status, they wish to maximise the rewards or returns on these activities irrespective of the impact on others and the bodies advancing their narrow sectional economic interests allow them to do this.

So each narrow sectional economic interest will pursue its case and, thereby, in aggregate will raise costs for all, but each narrow sectional interest will not be concerned once it can exercise enough pressure where it counts to ‘stay one step ahead of the game’. Those able to exercise sufficient economic and political power will win – and often handsomely; those unable to exercise sufficient economic and political power will lose out; but all will lose out in aggregate becaue the cost base of the economy will be far higher than it need be and deadwwight costs and inefficiencies will abound.

In the absence of a functioning parliament – to debate, to argue and to secure trade-offs, compromises or some degree of balance among all these narrow sectional economic interests and, then, to direct government to implement appropriate policies, government is compelled to stike some balance anong these competing narrow sectional economic interests behind closed doors in a manner that will not prejudice its over-riding objective – securing re-election.

Why is it so difficult for economists who pronounce on public policy to admit that this is how public policy is formulated and, ultimately, implemented? Why are they so reluctant to acknowledge this publicly, to highlight the damage it causes to the public interest and to propose remedies? Do they really believe that it is sufficient for them to make public pronouncements on economic policy – it is likely this conference will be chockfull of them – and that some how there might be some tiny possibility that a minister, a special adviser or a senior official, who is involved in these ‘behind-the scenes’ arm-wrestling with the narrow sectional economic interests, will latch on to some tiny element that might be applied and have some tiny impact in the public interest? Or perhaps do they believe that, by virtue of their positions or standing, they, also, may be able to influence ministers, their advisers and officials, in the public interest, but behind the scenes and away from the public glare?

If this is the case, fine. But it would be far more honest to declare this rather than making numerous public utterances or organising conferences of this nature in response to understandable widespread public interest, and conveying the impression that they have solutions when they know, in their hearts, that, given the current process of policy formulation, these proposals don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented if they conflict with the objectives of any of these narrow sectional economic interests.

At least ‘The Economist’ has finally recognised that public policy focused economists need to have some meaningful engagement with politicians and policy-makers:

again thanks all!

Any tech advice/suggestions taken on board – and feel free to email me directly (anonymity will be honoured) if specific thoughts.

I agree – unfortunately very hard for us to do! we can’t hold any bank account arrangement outside of a core Uni account etc. I considered PayPal in my own name but…er…bad idea! but point well made and taken and your consideration is appreciated (FYI in best tradition of airlines we will overbook!!).


I read the posts – honest. I would suggest a blog of your own and a cross reference to it. On the topic of the post again I hear you. And can agree on some points (although I actually glaze over at all references to economists/neoclassical/doctrine/left-right etc!). The core issue of economists influence over policy is a two way street. Supply and demand. And both sides need to be engaged and open or else no equilibrium will be met. I hope these conferences put ideas in the open – our wish to see use of twitter etc is in part to prompt the speakers into being bold. We can but try.

@Colm Harmon.

A specific question that perhaps Philip O’Connell of the ESRI might address.

Given that there is a ‘very weak’ Irish jobs market, are training programs designed with a view to training people for the International jobs market as distinct from the Irish jobs market?


Thank you, but I can see I’m probably wasting my time. Ah yes, supply and demand. And there is no shortage of supply of public policy analysis and advice and evidence of a huge public demand for even more supply. This conference provise excellent evidence. But, though demand should also be coming directly from the Oireachtas, it isn’t, and the only demand that counts is from government – and all they want is some advice on how they might square these narrow sectional economic interests behind the scenes in a way that won’t damage their chances of re-election.

However, in parallel, there is a huge demand by government and the government machine for economic input to sustain this optical illusion of ‘more competition and better regulation’ which is intended to conceal, or put a gloss on, the grubby deals they agree behind closed doors with the narrow sectional economic interests. This demand for flannel or BS to sustain this optical illusion absorbs a huge share of the supply of economic input in the public sphere. This is the principal, long-term, sustainable market for economic input in the public sphere and it is a market in economic BS.

So there are three markets. The first is this supply of economic policy analysis and advice responding to a widespread, but probably temporary, public demand. The second is this supply seeking to satisfy the public demand but also hoping against hope to call forth some demand in the policy-making arena. But there is no demand unless it meets the narrow political requirements of government. And, insofar as it might be achieved, any ‘equilibrium’ won’t be observed. And we have this third, much larger, market in economic BS.

Why do I continue to be surprised that economists fail to understand the nature of supply and demand in their own bailiwick? I suspect, however, that most do. It’s just that it’s probably much easier, safer and rewarding to go with the flow. Who in their right minds would volunteer for the Richard Tol treatment?

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