More on Government Economic and Evaluation Service

The announcement of an economic and evaluation capacity for the public sector has the potential to be a transformative venture and should be welcomed in my opinion.

I think this is far more than just filling the public sector with economists as a matter of optics – at least I hope so.  It is worth noting that this is just one initiative pointing in the right direction – for example, the D-PER recently convened a working group that brings expertise (academic, commercial etc) into the room to review major policy domains including nitty gritty things like how major capital projects are valued (Disclosure – I was asked to participate in this and was glad to).

Some things I hope will happen:

  • I hope the service evolves as an identifiable entity within the public service and not just buried in one Department – from what we can tell so far spreading the economists to wherever demand and skills are matched is the plan.
  • I hope to see a ‘Chief Economist’ role evolve – a visible, public facing role who is an advocate for what the service produces and is strong on communication.   Someone needs to be seen in public!!
  • It is very important to see ‘evaluation’ flagged explicitly and this is again a positive move – it suggests microeconomic policy will evolve as a domain and rightly so.
  • We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in a costly fashion with respect to training and ongoing development of the recruited economists – I hope to see routine movement between academic institutions and the service, and between the services and major policy research groups like the ESRI.
What would perhaps be the most exciting thing from this announcement is that it has the ability to empower public administration on issues of economic policy.  This is more than just about expertise and answering Dail questions on how many staff have economics degrees   For example, one of the less appealing aspects of policy, particularly microeconomic policy, has been the tendency to bury good initiatives in layers of – for want of a better phrase – spin.   The initiatives on job creation (which rightly are about halting the drift into LT unemployment) get announced in terms of ‘X numbers of jobs will be created’ which any sensible economist should drive a cart-and-horses through.    I hope a government service would push against this sort of instinct within the decision making processes.
Update – a link to the service announcement by D-PER is

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 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, 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

Welfare and incentives

Some of my students today complained – softly – about the workings of the Back to Education Allowance.    Like many such schemes globally it allows for some mechanism to maintain welfare payments whilst returning to full time education at both second and third level.   Laudable enough, although  I haven’t seen this evaluated in terms of impact but then again what is new for Irish policy.

Continue reading “Welfare and incentives”

A land down under….

This is a link to a nice conference on the Australian economy which colleagues at the Melbourne Institute ran a week or two ago.   Some good presentations (audio links also available).   Education session is good – I thought Andrew Leigh gave a great presentation which hits a lot of issues and views that I would share (raise quality and quantity).  Ditto innovation.   Some of the political speeches are as you would find them anywhere although I thought the Education Minister gave a smart and focused look at what their priorities are in this domain.

The papers by Van Ours and Gregory repeat a point made often here on labour market response – Van Ours nails this as get active in labour market and keep folks at work, nothing is irreversible, this is a crisis response and not a ‘steady state’ labour market strategy so don’t compare to the literature on Active Labour Market Policies which, he agrees, are pessimistic and carry sizable deadweight.

DEW Conference – November 2nd

The third in the series of Dublin Economics Workshop meetings on the Irish economy will take place on November 2nd at the Radission SAS Hotel, Golden Lane, Dublin 2.   The programme details are as follows:
1300 Registration
Session 1
Chair and Discussant – John Fitzgerald (ESRI)
1330-1415 David Blanchflower (Dartmouth) – What Should Be Done About Rising Unemployment?
1415-1445 Colm Harmon (UCD) – Education and Innovation Strategies
1445-1515 Discussion and Q&A
1515-1530 Coffee Break
Session 2
Chair and Discussant – Colm McCarthy (UCD)
1530-1600 John McHale (NUIG) – The Other Crisis:  Whither Irish Pensions?
1600-1630 Philip Lane (TCD) – Fiscal Policy and Macroeconomic Adjustment in Ireland
1630-1700 DIscussion and Q&A
Please RSVP to (many thanks to those who have already done so!).  We are looking forward to a full house and a lively meeting.