Brendan and Dermot Walsh on health and austerity

Dermot and Brendan Walsh have just published a provocative comment in the British Medical Journal on the link between health and austerity  [http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f4140/rr/651853].

Momentary relief from the deliberations on Anglo!

The comment reads:

Ireland is – after Greece – the country where the post 2008 structural adjustment programme, aka austerity, has been proportionately most severe. Yet there are few indications that this has had a significant adverse effect on basis health indicators.

The crude death rate in 2012 was 6.3 per 1,000 compared with 6.4 in pre-austerity 2007. The suicide rate in 2012 was 12.8 per 100, 000 in 2012 compared with 13.2 in 2007. Admission rates for depressive disorders fell to 117 per 100, 000 in 2012 from 138 in 2007. The percentage distribution of self-assessed health status did not change between 2007 and 2010 (the latest available year).

Overall there is a striking lack of evidence that the major austerity programme implementd since 2007, and the concomitant trebling of the inemployment rate, has had a significant deleterious effect on the health of the Irish population. This evidence needs to be given due weight in international assessments of the impact of economic policies on public health.

A very Irish story

If we were to choose one reform to improve Irish governance, what would it be? I would probably start with our libel laws, which directly allow mediocre bullies to shut down legitimate discussion and dissent, and indirectly help promote a culture of groupthink. We need more information and more discussion in this country, not less. And the Independent has done us a huge favour by releasing the Anglo tapes.

The law can stifle the dissemination of information and debate in other ways as well. I’ve no idea why the DPP has asked the Indo to stop releasing more tapes, assuming that this Irish Times story is true. All the Irish Times tells us is that “it expressed concern about the potential consequences of the emergence of certain other information into the public domain.” No doubt the DPP has its reasons. But the cost to the general public both in Ireland and abroad is high, since we all need more information, not less, about how bankers behave in practice.

National Accounts

The CSO have published the Q1 2013 Quarterly National Accounts.  GDP has contracted for three quarters in succession.  A decline in the net outflow of factor income led to a quarterly rise in GNP.  The Balance of Payments shows that there was a drop in the outflow of portfolio investment income on equity (though the impact this has on the seasonally adjusted national income figures is unclear).

Unsurprisingly, Consumption Expenditure fell in the quarter reflecting the pattern that has been obvious in recent Retail Sales Index releases.  The Investment figures are low and volatile and heavily influenced by the timing of purchases by aircraft leasing companies based here.  In real terms, Investment fell over 7% in the quarter.  Net expenditure by Government on goods and services was largely unchanged in the quarter.  All measures of domestic demand fell in the quarter.

In seasonally adjusted terms, real exports fell 3% in the quarter with a 1% drop in real imports.  The non-seasonally adjusted data in Annex 1 indicates a much greater drop in service exports compared to goods exports.

The National Income and Expenditure Accounts for 2012 have also been released.  The 2012 GDP growth figure has been revised down from +0.9% to +0.2%.  The GNP growth figure has been revised from +3.4% to +1.8%.

The Q1 2013 International Investment Position and External Debt figures have also been published.

DEW Economic Policy Conference 2013: Call for Papers

The Dublin Economics Workshop will hold its annual economic policy conference in Limerick on October 18-20. Stephen Kinsella is helping with local arrangements. 

Proposals for papers in any area of economic policy are invited and a brief summary should be forwarded, before August 20, to colm.mccarthy@ucd.ie.

Booking details and programme will be posted on this site in due course.

The Dublin Economics Workshop is kindly sponsored this year by Dublin Chamber of Commerce.