Could Ireland credibly threaten to veto an EU-UK trade deal?

For years now, Ireland and the UK have been the best of friends. Very sadly, Brexit is placing the relationship under strain. The positions of the two governments on the Irish border could not be further apart. Ireland is very clear: no trade deal that involves a physical border is acceptable. That obviously implies that the United Kingdom should seek to remain within the European Economic Area, and form a new customs union with the EU.  This would replicate its existing trade ties with the bloc, while respecting the vote to leave the EU, and avoid the need for a border within Ireland. The United Kingdom, on its part, is adamant that it must leave the customs union in order to strike separate trade deals with the United States and other countries overseas.  To be sure, it pays lip service to the importance of avoiding a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but this appears to be nothing more than a cynical manoeuvre. On the one hand, the magical unrealist tendency within the British government appears to think that by talking up the border issue, they can undermine the EU customs union, which has been defined by a common external tariff barrier since the 1950s. This would allow the UK to have its cake and eat it. On the other hand, the lip service will, they hope, allow the UK to place the blame for the consequences of its own decisions on Ireland and the rest of the EU.

What, if anything, can Ireland do?  As has been noted recently, the country is not powerless. While the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU will be decided by qualified majority vote, Ireland does have a potential veto in at least two possibly relevant circumstances. First, it would have a veto should the UK seek to extend the two-year deadline for exit following its Article 50 notification.  Second, and probably more to the point, if as seems likely the UK ultimately seeks an ambitious, “mixed” trade deal with the EU that includes provisions on, for example, investment, Ireland will have a veto on that as well.

The UK therefore has the power to give Ireland something that we want: the maintenance of a border-free Ireland. There are encouraging signs that some in Britain may now be moving in that direction, but they are not currently the ones driving British policy. And down the line, Ireland will have the power to deny the UK something that it wants: a trade deal with the EU that goes beyond tariff-free trade in goods, and includes the kinds of provisions on portfolio investment that would be of interest to the City. The question therefore is: can Ireland credibly threaten to use this power in an attempt to prevent the reimposition of a border on our island? Continue reading “Could Ireland credibly threaten to veto an EU-UK trade deal?”

That 26% growth rate – from startled earwigs to stars in our eyes

Last year we were scrambling around in response to the impact of the 26.3 per cent real GDP growth rate that was the headline from the 2015 National Income and Expenditure Accounts (NIE).  So where do we stand one year on? Long post, with too much mind-numbing detail, below the fold.

Continue reading “That 26% growth rate – from startled earwigs to stars in our eyes”

Quality, Innovation & Learning in Irish Manufacturing Firms

The successful management of change is crucial to firm survival and success. Many firms have responded to the challenges they face by incorporating quality-based strategies to their change management approach. A commitment to quality can drive firms to make significant improvements in profitability, productivity and competitiveness. A recent paper of mine, co-authored with Prof. Stephen Roper, Warwick Business School, examines the impact of introducing quality improvement methods (QIMs) on firm innovation in Irish manufacturing plants. Prior studies have been based on cross-sectional analysis making causality difficult to identify, and providing little information on the nature of the learning effects and lags involved in QIM adoption and its potential benefits for innovation. We ask whether, and over what period, the adoption of QIMs (e.g. ISO9000; Total Quality Management; and Quality Circles) impact on plants’ innovation success. Our empirical analysis reveals short-term disruptive and longer-term beneficial effects of QIMs on product innovation performance. In addition, the organic versus mechanistic nature of QIMs has some bearing on this temporal relationship. Empirical findings also highlight the role of complementarities and learning-by-using effects in shaping the quality–innovation relationship. The adoption of QIMs has significant implications for plants’ product innovation outputs, albeit with some time lags as internal routines are optimised. Quality improvement strategies and implementation plans need therefore to consider their innovation implications and any consequent impact on firm performance.

Full paper can be accessed here.

 

Save the date: September 7 – Policy Forum on Higher Education Funding

I am organising a policy conference on the above topic to be held at the RIA on Dawson Street from 9.30-12.30 on Thursday, September 7.

The main focus will be on the potential role of income-contingent student loans in HE funding.

The morning will begin with short presentations by five speakers, including Bruce Chapman (Australian National University), Lorraine Dearden (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London), Charles Larkin (Trinity College), Senator Aodhan O Riordain (to be confirmed) and myself. This will be followed by a 60-90 minute discussion session. The event will be chaired by Frances Ruane (ESRI).

I’ll post a detailed programme here when it’s finalized.

Update: Senator O Riordain has confirmed and the final programme is available here.

Minister Donohue, Stephen Donnelly speaking at DEW conference

A quick update on the annual DEW Conference. As noted a couple of weeks ago, the conference takes place in White’s of Wexford on September 22nd and 23rd. The post linked above outlined some highlights (at least in my own opinion) based on the programme as it was at the time.

An updated programme is now live at this link [PDF]. There are two further updates to the programme that readers may be interested to know:

  1. Firstly, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue will be giving the William Petty Keynote on Saturday evening, before the conference closes. He will speak after the Ireland in 2040 session, so it is likely he will address the regional spread of economic activity and the related topic of spending on infrastructure.
  2. Secondly, Stephen Donnelly TD will be giving the Cantillon Lecture on Friday afternoon. Stephen is the Fianna Fail spokesperson on Brexit and his lecture will be on the same topic.

For more on the conference and to buy tickets, please visit dublineconomics.com. Please note that, due to significant demand, there are no longer any rooms available at White’s. There is instead limited availability at the Maldron.

(Observant readers will have noticed that both named lectures are after economists with strong Kerry connections. Particularly in this, the 40th Annual DEW Conference, this is in recognition of the long association it has had with Kerry and with Kenmare in particular.)

2017/2018 Barrington Medal – deadline 8 September

THE STATISTICAL AND SOCIAL INQUIRY SOCIETY OF IRELAND:

Barrington Medal, 2017/2018

The Barrington Medal is awarded annually by the Council of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland under the auspices of the Barrington Trust (founded in 1836 by the bequest of John Barrington).  The award is intended to recognise promising new researchers in the economic and social sciences in Ireland. This will be the 169th anniversary of the lecture series and the recipient will be the one hundred and twenty-eighth Barrington Lecturer. The award is a silver medal and €1,000.

The lecture should be based on a paper of not more than 7,500 words addressing a topic of relevance to economic or social policy and of current interest in Ireland. In treating the issue of economic or social policy, the paper may either report the findings of a statistical research study dealing with some aspect of the problem or deal with the underlying theoretical considerations involved, or preferably combine these two approaches. It should be written in a manner that makes it accessible to non-specialists in the area. More technical material may be included in an appendix. The paper is published in the Journal of the Society, so it should not have been published before (nor should it be published subsequently without the prior consent of the Council of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland).

Candidates, who at the time of their submission must be within 10 years of completing a primary degree (or not more than 33 years of age), should at least submit a detailed abstract of approximately 1,000 words on the proposed lecture, with preference being given to full papers. A short CV and the name of a proposer who is familiar with their work should also be submitted. Entries will be accepted until September 8th and should be submitted to:

Martin O’Brien

Honorary Secretary

The Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland

c/o Financial Stability Division

Central Bank of Ireland

PO Box 559

Dublin 1

e-mail: Secretary@ssisi.ie

Speaking Truth to Power(lessness)

One of the more remarkable episodes in the recent French presidential election, and with wider lessons, was a heated debate in Amiens between Emmanuel Macron and workers at a Whirlpool factory under threat of closure.

While Macron was holding talks with city and union leaders in the chamber of commerce, Madame Le Pen arrived unexpectedly outside the factory gates, took a number of selfies with workers, promised unspecified special measures to save the factory, denounced Macron and was driven off in her election bus.

After his meetings, Macron arrived at the same factory gates to face booing and jeering and cries of ‘Le Pen for President’. After explaining why he had met the leaders ahead of the workers (because, he said, leaders of a trade union that behaves responsibly should be engaged with), he promised to answer all questions, and he did for an hour. The following is my attempt to summarise the subsequent questions and answers; it involves some rearranging.

Q: Why don’t you close the French border, for instance to imports from Poland where wages were low.
A: I won’t close the borders or roll back globalisation because it will cost French workers thousand of jobs if they work for firms that need to be able to export.

Q: There no work, it’s too late for us to find other work, we are unemployable.
A: Absolutely not true. There is work but it is different work and it requires retraining.

Q: Why are companies allowed to pay dividends at the same time as they are closing factories?
A: Stopping dividends, or banning factory closures is not possible. It would end foreign investment into France, and all the jobs those investments bring.

Q: Our factory needs special measures.
A: It is the responsibility of the workers and managers to make a success of the business. It’s not the responsibility of the Finance Minister, who should firmly and even-handedly apply policies and laws that support long-term economic development. Even with the best policies and laws, unfortunately some factories will still close.

Macron’s reaction to almost every single thing said to him is an impassioned ‘Non, non, non.’ It is difficult to think of other examples, anywhere, of a politician, during an election, in front of the television cameras, telling voters he would not do what they asked because it would not be in their interests, but would instead support the policies the voters blamed for their difficulties. I won’t do things that won’t work, he says at one point. That’s not the policy I support, he says at another.

45 minutes of the discussion is to be found on the last video link on this page of the En Marche! party website. The first 9 minutes is an argument over why Macron went first to the chamber of commerce, and why he waited until the second round of the election to visit factories such as Whirlpool’s; the policy debate begins after that. In parts of the recording, Macron plunges into the crowd and the exchanges can’t be heard very clearly.

Analysis of Low Pay Sectors

Readers may have seen that the Low Pay Commission recently published their report Recommendations on the National Minimum Wage for 2018.

Perhaps of most interest to readers of this blog are the detailed appendices, which include a study by Revenue and Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) economists Seán Kennedy, Brian Stanley and Gerry McGuinness of the low pay sectors based on tax return microdata. This paper is also separately available here.

The paper examines the incomes and mobility of taxpayers and the profitability of employers in Ireland using Revenue’s tax record data. The distributional and mobility analysis of low income taxpayers is based on a longitudinal dataset, which follows approximately 100,000 taxpayers for 4 years from 2011 to 2014. These taxpayers are stratified random sample drawn from the entire population of 2.1 million tax units on Revenue records. While analysis of incomes in Ireland and internationally is often based on a snapshot at a moment in time, the longitudinal nature of this dataset allows measurement of income mobility over time.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • One in three taxpayers are low paid, defined as those earning below two-thirds of median income.
  • The highest proportions of low paid taxpayers are in the wholesale & retail trade (23 per cent) and accommodation & food (19 per cent) sectors.
  • Five low pay sectors are identified, having median incomes that are substantially below the median income for all sectors. They include accommodation & food service activities, wholesale & retail trade and administrative & support service activities.  Slightly over one third of employments are in low pay sectors.
  •  Low pay sectors have the highest proportions of the youngest taxpayers. Two in five taxpayers are aged 24 and under in the accommodation & food sector.
  • In the low pay sectors, males earn slightly more than females while in the other sectors females earn more. The sectors with the highest ratio of males to females are construction, transport and agriculture (7.5, 2.9 and 2.8 times respectively).
  • In Dublin, median incomes in low pay sectors incomes are 7 per cent higher than those outside Dublin (compared to 9 per cent higher in the other sectors).

Based on an analysis of income mobility, lower paid taxpayers working in low paid sectors have a higher chance of increasing their incomes in future years relative to others within the same sector. For example, in the accommodation & food sector almost half moved upwards from the bottom quintile between 2013 and 2014.

IGEES Papers and Outputs

The Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) recently published a summary of papers and other outputs by IGEES economists. This showcases the papers that have been published on the IGEES website from January to December of 2016. While this is not an exhaustive list of the work that IGEES staff undertake, it does show the varied and detailed work that IGEES staff carryout throughout the year.

The summary is available here.

Database of Irish Non Profits

This is a guest blog from Benefacts.ie’s MD Patricia Quinn.

There’s no tag on the Irish Economy for “nonprofit” or even “charity” – maybe a symptom of the almost total lack of data until now on the organisations that make up this sector in Ireland. Hopefully, this is about to change.

Since 2015, Benefacts has been drawing on a variety of open data sources to create a dataset of unprecedented currency, granularity and reach. The Database of Irish Nonprofits is derived from all of the files placed in the public domain by ~20,000 organisations that would be classified by by statisticians as “NPISH” – nonprofit institutions serving households. According to Eurostat:

“Non-profit institutions serving households, abbreviated as NPISH, make up an institutional sector in the context of national accounts consisting of non-profit institutions which are not mainly financed and controlled by government and which provide goods or services to households for free or at prices that are not economically significant. Examples include churches and religious societies, sports and other clubs, trade unions and political parties.

NPISH are private, non-market producers which are separate legal entities. Their main resources, apart from those derived from occasional sales, are derived from voluntary contributions in cash or in kind from households in their capacity as consumers, from payments made by general governments, and from property income.”

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Non-profit_institutions_serving_households_(NPISH) consulted on 08/08/2017

A simpler way to think of this set of organisations is: all those that are neither part of the private sector, nor part of government.

Database scope

Some are charities, some are not – either because they are explicitly excluded from the definition in law by the Charities Act, 2009, or because they haven’t got around to registering yet.

About half are incorporated, mostly under the Companies Act (as CLGs), although there are also hundreds of industrial, friendly or provident societies including trade unions, and a handful that were incorporated by statute, some of them – like some major voluntary hospitals – prior to the foundation of the State. There are also thousands of church or faith bodies, as well as sports, cultural and recreational clubs, societies and associations.

The number of ~20,000 includes all of those nonprofits that are registered with and required to return information to at least one national public authority – the Companies Registration Office, Revenue (for tax relief as charities, schools or sports bodies), the Charities Regulator, the Library of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Many thousands more are not included on national registers but are governed by national bodies (for religion, sport etc) – hopefully for future inclusion in the Database.

Having identified its scope, Benefacts harvests data every day from multiple public sources, sometimes availing of open data files and – for financial and governance data – extracting it manually from financial statements and other regulatory filings. Benefacts doesn’t ‘scrape’ other peoples’ websites, but we do add some additional information including a classification (following Eurostat norms), the URL of each nonprofit, and information about compliance with some voluntary codes. This model, which is co-funded by government and philanthropies, means that there’s no effort required of any nonprofit to be included.

Accessing the Database of Irish Nonprofits

To see who’s in the Database, have a look at the open datasets generated by Benefacts from the data derived from these public sources.  This is updated every day on data.gov.ie. The list is sortable by

  • Registered name(s)
  • Benefacts classification
  • Address
  • Eircode
  • County
  • Name(s) of authorities by which the nonprofit is regulated
  • Regulatory number(s)
  • Link to each nonprofit’s listing on Benefacts.ie

A free public website – benefacts.ie – provides user-friendly access to extracts from the currently available data and public files on each listed nonprofit, there’s a public API that allows users to download the same information as a data feed, and a new customised service for institutional users to support governance, risk and compliance analysis (Benefacts Analytics). Users in government like the CSO, the Charities Regulator, IGEES analysts and internal auditors have had bespoke reports with more granular data extracted from financial statements (balance sheet, I&E, notes to the accounts), reflecting their particular requirements.

What does the data tell us?

Earlier in 2017, using the full population of available data, we published the first in an annual series of reports analysing the nonprofit sector in Ireland. We intended this as a billboard, drawing public attention to some of the main features of the sector, and starting to explode some myths.

The Irish nonprofit sector is hidden in plain view. It employs 150,000 people, and has an aggregate turnover of €11bn, only 18% of which is derived from government grants. Service fees from Government account for 31% of the sector’s revenues – mostly in the health and social services sub-sectors – but only 2,700 nonprofits rely on government funding of any kind. Remuneration data available for the first time in 2015 under FRS102 indicates that only 0.5% of people working in independent nonprofits – excluding those where salaries are pegged to governmental paygrades – receive annual remuneration of more than €70,000: this compares to 12.8% of people in the population at large.

This is all very interesting, but it is only scratching the surface. Since 2015, Benefacts has been harvesting extensive financial and governance data from the financial and constitutional documents of thousands of nonprofits, and socialising the data on various platforms.

The nonprofit sector will continue to be the Cindarella of the Irish economy until such time as the Database of Irish Nonprofits starts being used by economists who will put our dataset in the wider context. Where is Prince Charming?

Developments in enterprise credit in Ireland

The Bank published the 2017 H1 edition of the SME Market Report last week.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Gross new lending to non-financial, non-real estate SMEs continues to grow. Annualised new lending to Q1 2017 was €3.6bn, a 32 per cent increase since Q1 2016. By way of context, between 2010 and 2013 this number ranged between €2bn and €2.5bn.
  • Despite this growth in new lending, the outstanding stock of credit to SMEs continues to contract. In Q1 2017, the stock of SME credit declined to €16.6 bn, down 8.2 per cent from the previous year. This reflects the fact that loan repayments, loan sales and liquidations are still more than offsetting new lending flows.
  • The SME lending market remains highly concentrated, with the market share of the three main lenders in new bank lending flows being 82 per cent.
  • The current application rate for bank finance is 20 per cent, which is lower than at any point since 2011. However, the share of these applications going to new loan and overdraft facilities continues to grow, while the share going to renewal and restructuring of existing facilities continues to fall.
  • The rejection rate on SME loan applications has risen slightly in the last year for Micro and Small firms, but continues to fall for Medium-size firms.
  • The default rate on SME loans in Ireland is currently 18.7 per cent. This rate is highest in the Construction and the Hotels and Restaurants sectors, while it is lowest in the Agriculture, Manufacturing and the “Other Community, Social and Personal Services” sectors.
  • Irish SMEs continue to pay a significantly higher interest rate on bank credit than other euro area SMEs. The premium paid on small versus large loans in Ireland also continues to remain significantly higher than that in comparator countries.

Link to the report can be found here.