DEW, September 2019 – call for papers

The 42nd DEW Annual Economic Policy Conference will take place on 13/14 September 2019 in Clayton Whites Hotel, County Wexford. DEW is Ireland’s longest standing and premier forum for economic policy debate. Founded in 1977, the annual economic policy conference is attended by policymakers, academics and practitioners with a focus on evidence-based policymaking. We are now in the process of assembling speakers for this year’s event and would like to invite a call for papers in the following areas:

  • The economics of health
  • Sustainability & climate change
  • Small open economies
  • Labour market
  • 20th Anniversary of the Euro
  • Housing

Submissions should be sent to sarah@dublineconomics.com. All submissions will be treated fairly but cannot be guaranteed to be accepted for inclusion in the conference.

DEW Committee

SSISI Meeting (Barrington Lecture) – 5.30pm, Thursday 21st February

SSISI logo.png

The Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland [ssisi.ie]

invites you to attend the 2019 Barrington Lecture on the following topic:

US corporate tax rate cuts: Spillovers to the Irish economy

By: Daragh Clancy (European Stability Mechanism)

to be delivered on: Thursday 21st February 2019 at 5.30pm

at the: Royal Irish Academy

The proposer of thanks is Professor Frank Barry, Trinity College Dublin.

Abstract: We examine spillovers to the Irish economy from US corporate income tax rate cuts and find they lead to a small but persistent increase in Irish output. Our analysis of the transmission channels shows that this expansion is largely driven by an increase in investment, employment and exports in the externally-financed industrial sector. We also find that spillovers from US corporate income tax cuts are larger when the Irish economy is already expanding. Our findings suggest that the changing structure of the Irish economy means any spillovers to real economic activity from the recent US corporate tax cuts could be relatively minor. However, the shifting focus of foreign multinational corporations’ operations in Ireland means that there is a risk of a capital outflow.

Non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion.

Guest post: An Ireland of Alternative Private Currencies Without Bailouts

Today, we have a guest post by Sean Kenny (Lund), who below summarises some lessons for policymakers from a recent working paper with John Turner (Queens) on the Irish banking system before joint-stock banks.

==

As the Irish economy continues to emerge from the financial crisis of 2008 and the controversial blanket guarantee which followed it, from the comfort of hindsight a number of decisions have been criticised by prominent commentators. In particular, the terms of the bailout package and the shouldering of bank debt by the Irish taxpayer have featured frequently in the debate. In other words, the domestic and international political machinery employed to address the collapse of the banking system was deemed by many to be inappropriate, as events unfolded all too rapidly. Over the critical weekend of the guarantee, concerns were raised that no currency would be available from ATM machines at the open of business the following Monday.

It is interesting to ponder what might have happened under such a scenario where no support mechanism, instead of an inadequate one, had existed and where money may in fact have disappeared from the economy. As my research with Professor John Turner (Queen’s University, Belfast) documents, such was largely the experience during the last Irish banking crisis of comparable scale in 1820. During this era, money consisted of alternative private bank notes which were redeemable in Bank of Ireland notes considered “as good as gold.”

No central bank existed and the Irish and British exchequers had recently amalgamated. If a private bank had lent unwisely, pushing too many of its notes into circulation, when their notes were presented for conversion at their counters, failure could quickly occur if its current loan income and reserves fell short of its short term liabilities (notes and deposits). Of course, this tendency was exacerbated by a lack of regulation on the issue of private currency, a lack of trust in the stability of small private partnership banks and a prevailing political ethos which saw no role for government involvement in ensuring financial stability.

The 1820 crisis, which began in Cork and spread north saw 40 per cent of Irish banks fail within three weeks, leaving large portions of the country with neither currency nor banks for many years. This had predictably adverse effects on the economy as investment and consumption were largely suspended. In a scene many of us are familiar with today, many bankers, consisting primarily of the politically-connected landed elite, shielded their personal estates from liquidators as their banks’ deposits and notes went unpaid, ruining whole communities in turn. In the worst affected areas, money was simply unavailable to pay wages or to engage in trade and so consumption and employment further collapsed while price falls continued as money became scarcer. As a petition signed by the Lord Mayor of Cork put it, “all confidence, as well as Trade, is suspended, there not being sufficient currency to represent property in its transfer”.

During the following five years, a twilight zone emerged from the ashes, during which an insufficient supply of private money in the form of trade bills was circulated amongst the merchant class who constantly petitioned for reform of the entire monetary and banking system. In this era of uncertainty, many survivor banks and businesses failed as debts could not be collected and the Bank of Ireland remained solely in Dublin.

The 1820 crisis marked the beginning of the end of a quarter century which one historian called a “financial pantomime” where more than 20 percent of the banking system failed on at least four separate occasions. Compared with our own age where banks are deemed “too big to fail”, this was an era in which banks were too small to survive with primitive legislation controlling their activities. So utterly decimated was the monetary and banking system following 1820, that new legislation was introduced in 1825 which replaced the small partnership banks with a system of well capitalised joint stock banks with unlimited liability for a large number of shareholders.

This revolutionised the Irish banking system and dramatically improved financial access through the coming decades. No major banking crisis was to visit Ireland again until 2008. In an age where private (crypto) currencies are being promoted as a panacea to the alleged ills of current monetary regimes, it is appropriate to recall that when private money dies, it is not only its holders and issuers who are affected when the scale of its exchange is significant.  The demise of this group will reduce their investment, consumption and debt-servicing capabilities, which will in turn affect the wider economy. Instead, the utopia of a well-designed financial system in the context of a political apparatus which minimises the fallout when things go awry, then as now, remains a goal worthy of our finest endeavour.

129th Barrington Medal, 2018/2019

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 a promising new researcher in the economic and social sciences in Ireland. The award is a silver medal and €1,000. This will be the 170th anniversary of the lecture series and the recipient will be the one 129th Barrington Lecturer.

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 not more than 35 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.

The call for entries closes on September 8th.  More information, including a list of past winners of the Medal since 1992, is available here and from secretary@ssisi.ie.

41st DEW Annual Conference – September 14/15, Clayton Whites (Wexford)

The 41st Annual DEW Economic Policy Conference, supported by Dublin Chamber, takes place in Whites of Wexford on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th September, 2018.

The conference opens on Friday afternoon with the Cantillon Lecture delivered by Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe. The two other sessions on Friday deal with the all-island economy, including Aidan Gough (Intertrade Ireland) and Tom Healy (NERI), and “Ten Years Since the Crisis“, where the expert panel includes Sharon Donnery (Central Bank) and Ann Nolan (ex-Department of Finance).

Saturday morning starts with a session on Housing Supply, featuring among others Orla Hegarty (UCD) and Colette Bennett (Social Justice Ireland). Next up is an expert panel on Higher Education, with Michael Horgan (Chair, Higher Education Authority), Brigid McManus (ex-Department of Education) and Linda Doyle (Vice-Dean for Research, Trinity College Dublin).

After lunch, there are parallel sessions on the application of behavioural economics to policy and on public finances. The conference concludes with an expert panel on Ireland 2040, chaired by Robert Watt (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform), and the William Petty lecture, by another government minister.

For more on the conference, including how to book, please visit the DEW’s website: http://dublineconomics.com.

41st Annual DEW Economic Policy Conference

The Dublin Economics Workshop (DEW) is holding its 41st annual Economic Policy Conference in the Clayton White’s Hotel in Wexford on 14/15 September 2018.

At this stage, the DEW is inviting submissions on the following six topics:

  1. All-island economy
  2. Transport & infrastructure
  3. Higher education
  4. Diversity
  5. Behavioural economics – application to policy
  6. Housing supply

All speakers will be asked to present for 15 minutes each. While a paper is not mandatory, it is preferred. If you would like to submit, please send a short abstract (c.300 words) to sarah@dublineconomics.com by 5pm on Friday 11th May.

 

SSISI Annual Symposium – Ireland 2040

The Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland will host its annual symposium this Thursday, 26th April 2018 at 5:30pm, in Chartered Accountants House, 47/49 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.

The topic of the symposium is: ‘Where’ will the Economy be in 2040? Delivering on the National Planning Framework

Speakers include:

  • Professor Henry Overman, London School of Economics and Director of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth
  • Paul Hogan, Senior Adviser at Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government and project manager for the National Planning Framework
  • Dr. Ronan Lyons, Assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin

As ever, non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion.

New ‘Economics of Property Market’ online course at TCD

There is widespread agreement that Ireland lacks the housing policy expertise to solve its current housing woes. For example, Donal MacManus of the Irish Council of Social Housing made the case recently for third-level education in housing, given the small number of people with accredited housing policy expertise in this country.

To help address this skills gap, Trinity have developed an online course entitled The Economics of the Property Market. It is aimed largely at professionals without any formal training in economics whose work involves property/housing, including valuers, architects, engineers, solicitors and accountants, but is open to anyone with an interest in the property market.

The online course takes place April-June and comprises four sessions, which look separately at: understanding markets; the demand for property; the supply of property; and the economics of property market policy. More information, and a link to sign up for the course, is given at this link:
https://www.tcd.ie/Economics/CPD/index.php

The deadline for registering is Friday April 13th, the course is live on April 30 and all participants are expected to complete the four sessions within six weeks. Those who have further questions can contact me (firstname.surname at tcd.ie).

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

Dublin Economics Workshop – Annual ‘Kenmare’ conference

This year sees the 40th Annual DEW Economic Policy Conference. The event takes place on September 22nd/23rd in the Clayton Whites Hotel in Wexford, with the generous support of the Dublin Chamber. On behalf of the organising committee, I am pleased to announce the programme for the event is live and available via this link.

As in previous years, the conference is the premier forum for presentation and debate on the major economic issues facing Ireland. This year, topics covered include Brexit, housing, monetary policy, redistribution and inequality, Public Sector pay and the National Planning Framework. To pick out some highlights:

  • Kevin O’Rourke (of this parish), Frances Coppola, Catherine Day (ex-European Commission) and Rory Montgomery (Dept of Foreign Affairs) on Europe after Brexit
  • A “during dinner” session on the DEW at Forty, highlighting some of the policy wins, failures and lessons from the last four decades – chaired by Sean Whelan (RTE)
  • International perspectives on solving Ireland’s housing crisis, including a presentation from the author of an OECD report on land use
  • A session on Ireland’s tax policy, featuring among others David Bradbury, head of Tax Policy (and BEPS) at the OECD
  • An expert panel discusses Ireland in 2040, with contributions from John Moran (ex-Dept of Finance) and Conor Skehan (DIT and Housing Agency), among others.

There will also be two keynote addresses, one on Friday afternoon (on Brexit) and one on Saturday (as a follow-up to the Ireland in 2040 session). Given the strength of the line-up, we advise those interested to book early as there will be significant demand and places are limited. All bookings can be made via the website: dublineconomics.com. There are a limited number of special all-in fee packages, including 2 nights B&B and 2 dinners, as well as the conference fee, available at the website.

SSISI Annual Symposium – 5pm April 20th (Central Bank, North Wall Quay)

A message on behalf of Frances Ruane (President of the Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland):

The Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland’s Annual Symposium will be held on Thursday April 20th at 5pm, in the Central Bank of Ireland, North Wall Quay (Dublin 1).

The theme will be “Globalisation, Inequality and the Rise of Populism: Economic, Social and Political Perspectives” and the speakers include:

  • Prof Brian Nolan (Oxford)
  • Prof Richard Layte (ESRI)
  • Dr Theresa Reidy (UCC)

Non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the discussion. Please email secretary@ssisi.ie to register for this event. More information about the event and about SSISI is available here.

Dublin Economics Workshop annual conference: Save the date!

On behalf of the newly-minted organising committee, I’d like to notify readers of this site about the DEW’s 40th Annual Conference. Still affectionately known as the ‘Kenmare Conference’, it will take place in White’s of Wexford (the same venue as last year) on Friday September 22nd and Saturday 23rd.

A limited number of very favourably priced “all-in” tickets (conference plus two nights accommodation and dinners) will be available. More details will be posted here, on dublineconomics.com and sent to the DEW’s mailing list as they are available. One thing to note is that – similar to most years of its existence, albeit not the last few – for most of the conference, there will be just one set of sessions at any given point in time.

The Dublin Economics Workshop is generously supported by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. (Those of a historical bent might be interested in this chronicle of the chamber’s history.)

DEW Annual Conference – programme

The programme for the Dublin Economics Workshop annual conference, which takes place on 23/24 September in White’s of Wexford, is available via this link [PDF]. Hopefully all sessions will be of interest the readers of this blog, but I might highlight the two keynote addresses, one by Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Northern Ireland’s Minister of Finance, and the other by Sharon Donnery, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank,  as well as sessions on Irish national accounts (in the light of 26% growth) and on Irish fiscal and financial stability (in the light of #appletax), and one led by Liam Delaney on using behavioural economics to shape public policy.

Given my own interests, it will not be a surprise to learn that there is a session on housing supply (including expert views on why construction costs are so high in Ireland) and on real estate more broadly, while there is also an interesting session on life beyond the M50, looking at politics, agriculture and funding for the arts, taking place on Friday afternoon.

Bookings for the conference can be made on the DEW’s website, here.

(And on behalf of the new organising committee, I apologise for the delay in this going live!)

DEW Annual Conference – programme and tickets

Following on from an earlier post, below are more details about the Dublin Economics Workshop’s Annual Conference (formerly known as “Kenmare”). The theme for this year’s conference is Policymaking for an Uncertain Future and the conference takes place on September 23rd and 24th in White’s of Wexford. Tickets can be bought from the DEW’s website, with a special package of €250 covering two nights at the hotel, both breakfasts and dinners, and the conference fee itself.

The current draft programme is below, with more details to be added as they are confirmed. Hopefully, we will see many of you down there, to enjoy the conference’s unique interaction of public, private and academic economists, discussing a range of important policy issues.

Friday, 23rd of September

  • 1.00-2.30pm: Keynote [TBC]
  • 3.00-4.30pm: High-Level Panel, “Beyond the M50: What Economic Future is there for Rural Ireland?
  • 5.00-6.30pm: Expert Session, “Why are Construction Costs in Ireland So High?
    • Three speakers, including David Dumigan (Hines) and Jason Cronin (Virtus)
  • 7.00pm: Conference Dinner

Saturday, 24th of September

  • 10.00-11.30am: First Parallel Session:
    • The Economics of Healthcare in Ireland.  Details to come.
    • Infrastructure: the Key to Regional Development? Three speakers, including Sean O’Riordain and Laura Watts (DPER).
    • Mortgage Rules and Household Credit: Informing the Future. Three speakers, including Loretta O’Sullivan (BOI).
  • 12.00-1.30pm: Second Parallel Session:
    • Higher Education in Ireland after Brexit. Details to come.
    • Empirical Research on the Irish Banking Sector. Full details to come; speakers include Central Bank of Ireland researchers
    • Can we trust Ireland’s National Accounts? Speakers include Frank Barry (TCD), Conall MacCoille (Davy) and Chris Sibley (CSO).
  • 3.00-4.30pm: Third Parallel Session:
    • Ireland’s Fiscal & Financial Stability. Speakers include Dermot O’Leary (Goodbody).
    • Reforming Social Welfare. Speakers include Micheál Collins and Niamh Holton (NERI).
    • Informing Policy With Behavioural Economics. Full details to come.
  • 5.00-6pm Keynote: Sharon Donnery, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland
  • 6.30pm: Conference Dinner, including an After-Dinner Speech [TBC]

Annual DEW ‘Kenmare’ Conference: save-the-date

The readership of this blog are encouraged to note in their diaries that the Dublin Economics Workshop’s annual policy conference – held during the ‘Great Moderation’ in Kenmare – is taking place in White’s of Wexford this year on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th of September. Further details, including a provisional programme, will be posted in early August.

On behalf of the organising committee, I am happy to take suggestions for sessions, and speakers, via email: my email takes the form firstname.surname@tcd.ie. As in previous years, the aim of the conference is to bring together those involved in economic research and analysis – across public, private and higher education sectors – to deliver sessions that provide insights of relevance for those involved in making policy here.

DEW/TCD policy conference on housing & homelessness.

The Dublin Economics Workshop, in association with the Policy Institute at Trinity College Dublin, is organising a half-day event from 9 to 12 next Wednesday (June 8), entitled Homelessness & Social Housing: Policy Solutions for Ireland.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney will open the event, after which there will be a keynote by Professor Dan O’Flaherty (Columbia), a world expert on homelessness and low-income housing. Eoin O’Sullivan (TCD) and Michelle Norris (UCD, HFA) are also presenting, before Cathal O’Connell (UCC) moderates an open discussion.

The event is free and open to all. To ensure adequate capacity (both venue and refreshments!), if you intend to attend the event, please register here. More details on the event are here [PDF].

The Brexit Debate – EU Integration or Disintegration?

The School of Social Science & Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin is hosting a Brexit debate, on Thursday 9th of June at 6pm. Speakers include economists John O’Hagan and Michael Wycherley (nationalities Irish and English, respectively!), as well as Will Phelan (Political Science) and Francis Jacobs (ex-European Parliament). More details, including how to register for this free event, are here.

The Economics of City Regrowth – Trinity College Dublin PhD Grattan Scholarship

The Department of Economics at Trinity College Dublin invites applications for a Grattan Scholarship at PhD level, starting in September 2016, on the economics of city regrowth. The funding includes all fees, an annual stipend of €20,000 and a budget for research expenses, over a four-year period. In return, Scholars are expected to undertaking teaching and research assistance as required. Interested applicants are requested to contact Ronan Lyons (ronan.lyons@tcd.ie) by Monday May 16th.

More information is available at this link: The Economics of City Regrowth – Grattan Scholarship 2016-2020

Barrington Medal and JSSISI call for papers

The Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland is entering its 170th year – which surely means it must rank among the oldest societies of its kind on the planet. As it enters a new year, I would just like to draw the attention of this blog’s readers to the following two notices:

  1. The Barrington Medal, 2016/17, abstract due by end-July.
  2. A call for papers for the Society’s journal, with submissions due by early August.

Lecturer in Economics, Queens University Belfast

The Queen’s Management School, at Queen’s University Belfast, is hiring a Lecturer in Economics. The School is particularly keen to attract those with expertise in macroeconomics; public economics; health, education and welfare economics; and labour economics. More details here. The closing date is next Monday, 25 April 2016.

SSISI – 2015/2016 Call for Papers & Barrington Medal

The site’s readership might be interested in two announcements by the Statistical & Social Inquiry Society of Ireland:

  1. The first is a general call for papers [PDF] for the Society’s 169th Session, with a deadline of August 7th. Papers are presented to the society and then published in its Journal, which has – if I’m not mistaken – been going since the 1840s, which must make it one of the world’s longest-running social science journals.
  2. The second is the specific call for submissions for the Barrington Medal, which is intended to recognise promising new researchers in the economic and social sciences in Ireland. More details are available here, and the deadline is July 31st.

When does a housing bubble start?

Yesterday, former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy appeared before the Oireachtas banking enquiry. His refusal to answer whether or not he believed Ireland suffered a property bubble that burst in 2007 was not only great TV, it also brings up some important issues. For example, the Irish Independent reports:

The conflict arose when Mr Doherty asked the former minister if he believed there had been a property bubble in the previous 15 years before the financial crisis. Mr McCreevy insisted he would only answer for his time in office and there had been no property bubble during that time… [after legal advice] Mr McCreevy said from 2003 to 2007 house prices grew at an extraordinary rate. He supposed that was a bubble. But he said: “I don’t believe the policies I pursued helped to create that bubble.”

The clear implication is that Mr McCreevy believes that, if there was any housing bubble at all, its roots do not lie in decisions made in the period 1997-2004, and that in reality there was no bubble at all. Given the title of my doctorate at Oxford was called “The Economics of Ireland’s Housing Market Bubble”, you might not be surprised to learn that I disagree.

First, I think it is important to note that there are two ways of diagnosing bubbles. They can be thought of as statistical bubbles and economic bubbles. A statistical bubble is one where the growth rate in the price of an asset, such as housing, grows at a rate that is unsustainable for any reasonable period of time. Between 1995 and 2007, house prices in Dublin increased by 300% in real terms (i.e. stripping out inflation), or 12.2% a year. Between 1997 and 2004, McCreevy’s term in office, the increase was 136%, or 13.1% a year. (Nationwide figures are comparable, although slightly lower for the period as a whole, although not necessarily in every year.) Thus, by any statisticians metric, it was a bubble – put another way, if 12% growth had continued for 25 years, a house costing €100,000 in 1995 would have cost €1.7m by 2020.

Continue reading “When does a housing bubble start?”

What is economics good for? Event with Dan Ariely and Mark Blyth

Something perhaps of interest to the site’s readership…

This weekend, the Zurich Dalkey Book Festival takes place. This has become something of a sister event to Kilkenomics, which has in recent years hosted leading academic economists such as Deirdre McCloskey and Jeffrey Sachs as well as prominent economic commentators such as Diane Coyle, Simon Kuper and Philippe LeGrain.

This Saturday in Dalkey, I’ll be chairing an event called “Economists: What Are They Good For?“. The three-person panel comprises Dan Ariely, one of the world’s top behavioural economists, and Mark Blyth, author of Austerity – The History of A Dangerous Idea, as well as “the world’s most-quoted living man” PJ O’Rourke.

 

TCD Policy Institute event on mortgage arrears

The topic of mortgage arrears remains close to the top of the political agenda, with the Government set to announce measures today on the issue. Next week, we are very fortunate to have in Dublin one of the world’s leading experts on housing markets, arrears and foreclosure, Fernando Ferreira of Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Policy Institute, based at Trinity College Dublin, has organised a mini-conference on mortgage arrears for the morning (9am to 11.30am), next Monday 18th May in Trinity College Dublin (JM Synge Theatre, Room 2039, Arts Building). The mini-conference centres on factors influencing mortgage arrears and repossession and focuses in particular on the US and Irish experiences. Speakers include Fernando Ferreira (Wharton & NBER) and Yvonne McCarthy (Central Bank of Ireland). There will also be a panel discussion and time for questions/comments from participants.

All welcome with no need to register.

Expectations, credit and house prices

Happy new year to the irisheconomy.ie community. Of course new year means new quarter and new quarter means house price reports…

The latest Daft.ie House Price report is out this morning. The PDF is available here. For me, the key takeaway is as follows: house prices fell in the final quarter of 2014 and it seems very unlikely to have been statistical noise or a seasonal effect. 35 areas are analysed in each report. For each of the first three quarters of the year, an average of 32 showed quarterly gains in asking prices. For the final quarter, this flipped, with 30 of 35 regions showing a fall. For Dublin, this was the first quarterly fall since mid-2012. (Given the size of increases earlier in the year, a one-quarter fall still leaves the year-on-year change large and positive: 20% in Dublin and 8% elsewhere.) Broadly speaking, a mix-adjusted analysis of Price Register transactions shows the same. While it is only one quarter, it seems more than just a statistical blip.

For me, the check-list of what matters for house prices contains five items: [1] household incomes, [2] demographics and [3] housing supply (“the fundamentals”); and [4] credit and [5] expectations, these last two being the “asset factors” that can create and destroy housing bubbles. None of the fundamentals changed dramatically in the final three months of the year (the only thing you could argue was a slightly higher volume of listings in Dublin), so the change after September must be due to asset factors.

The Central Bank proposed in October to cap residential mortgages as early as January 2015, although this could not affect prices directly in 2014. So the last remaining candidate is expectations.* The quarterly Daft.ie report includes findings from a survey of housing market sentiment. This survey indicates that, yes, those active in the housing market did revise downward their expectations about future house price growth, particularly in Dublin. Whereas those surveyed in September expected a 12% increase in Dublin house prices over the next 12 months, this had fallen to less than 5% by December. I expect that the Central Bank would be happy if it were the case that their proposals strengthened the link in people’s heads between fundamentals (in particular people’s incomes) and house prices.

As for my opinions on the Central Bank guidelines themselves, I submitted a response to the Central Bank’s Consultation Paper, which is available online here. The TL;DR version is “max LTV good, max LTI bad”. I made similar points at an Oireachtas hearing on this and related topics in late November.

* Some have argued that the end of Capital Gains Tax relief was what drove trends in the final months of 2014. The theoretical reasoning behind this is unclear – it is not obvious that this would affect supply more than demand – while practically speaking, it is also not clear how this would have managed to infiltrate the vast bulk of the market which is not of interest to investors. When asked what they thought was driving house prices, those active in the housing market rarely mentioned tax factors, instead picking credit and supply as the main factors.

Central Bank event: Labour Markets over the Business Cycle

The Central Bank is hosting a one-day conference on “Labour Markets over the Business Cycle” on 11 December in Dame Street (programme below). There is a limited number of places still available. If you wish to attend, please email ieaadmin@centralbank.ie by 9 December. Please note that places will be allocated strictly on a first-come-first-served basis.

Labour Market Adjustment over the Business Cycle

A one-day conference at the Central Bank of Ireland

11 December 2014
Liffey room, Dame Street, Dublin 2

email ieaadmin@centralbank.ie to confirm attendance by 9 December

   
Programme

 

11 December  
   
08:45 Registration and coffee
09:00 Opening remarks – “Prospects and Challenges for the Irish Labour Market 2015 – 2020”. John Flynn (Head of Irish Economic Analysis Division, Central Bank of Ireland).
   
Session 1 

09:20-11:00

Cycles in employment, unemployment and wages
  Labour market transitions in Ireland – Thomas Conefrey (Irish Fiscal Advisory Council)
  Wage Cyclicality – Mario Izquierdo (Banco de Espana)

 

11:00 Coffee & tea break
   
Session 2
11:15-13:00
Labour market attachment
  Are the marginally attached unemployed or inactive? – Martina Lawless (CBI/ESRI)
  Sources of wage losses of displaced workers – Pedro Portugal (Banco de Portugal)
   
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
   
Session 3
14:00 – 15:45
Wage flexibility
  Wage flexibility in Ireland – Olive Sweetman (Maynooth University)
  Wage Setting – Flexibility and Rigidity in the UK since 1975 – Jennifer Smith (University of Warwick)

 

Session 4

15:45

Labour market adjustment during and after the crisis: the role of policies and institutions
  Pedro Martins (Queen Mary University of London)
  Questions & discussion

 

  Closing remarks

Conference Ends

Join the dots

There are some days when political myopia and an inability to join the dots is particularly difficult to accept. This is one.

On the one hand, we have the Simon Community’s latest annual report:

Over 1,400 people are forced to seek shelter in emergency accommodation in Dublin every night, according to the charity [Simon]. It believes there is little hope for these people of moving on to somewhere of their own in the long term, with at least 50% of people now stuck in emergency shelter for more than six months. The problem, it says, lies in the collapse of the private rented and social housing market, with additional housing also slow to come on stream.

On the other hand, we have these decisions from Dublin’s local authorities:

Dublin homeowners, the State’s biggest payers of local property tax, will have their bills cut next year, following the decision of councillors in three local authorities to lower the tax by 15 per cent. Dublin city councillors last night voted for the cut, despite warnings from chief executive Owen Keegan that the decision could hit homeless services.

Dublin’s local authorities are foregoing roughly €40m on an annual basis with these measures. The back of my envelope suggests that this amount, if used as collateral/deposit of one third to borrow the other two thirds, could have perhaps provided for building 1,000 units a year. I suggest bringing this up with your councillor the next time they knock on the door, proclaiming the virtues of knocking €80 off your property tax bill, while also claiming they will take action on homelessness.

There are two additional bitter pills to swallow. Firstly, this tax rebate is probably the most regressive one that could be dreamed up, with Ireland’s wealthiest citizens benefiting the most and the poorest third of society gaining nothing. And secondly, Ireland’s left-of-centre parties (particularly those not in Government) led the charge on this. The mind boggles.

Blame cannot lie entirely with local politicians, it must be said. Narrowly, if central government hadn’t given them a target of 15%, and instead let them do whatever they want with their property tax, but live with the consequences, things might have panned out differently.

More broadly, there will always be a segment of society who cannot afford to cover the costs involved in their accommodation, so there will always be a requirement for social housing. The government has long abdicated its duties in this regard.

 

From prosperity to austerity – book launch

Later this month sees the launch of “From Prosperity to Austerity: A socio-cultural critique of the Celtic Tiger and its Aftermath”, a book on the Irish economy and society edited by Eamon Maher (IT Tallaght) and Eugene O’Brien and published by Manchester University Press.

The launch take places 6pm, Thursday September 25 in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street. Brian Lucey (TCD) will giving an address at the launch – and if that weren’t incentive enough to head along, there will also be refreshments!

Thomas Piketty and the subsidy of leverage

Over the weekend, the Irish Times led with eye-catching headline “Piketty says [Ireland’s] property tax unfair and should be altered“. The juxtaposition of Piketty, arguably the world’s most talked about economist in 2014, and Ireland’s property tax, possibly the smallest property tax of any developed country, is due to Piketty’s presence in Dublin this Friday to talk at TASC’s annual conference.

Piketty’s point is that property tax – a tax on the most prevalent form of wealth – takes no account of debt, mortgages being the most prevalent form of debt. In his own words:

“I think if you have a house that’s worth €400,000 but you have a mortgage of €390,000, you know you’re not really rich. Your net wealth is €10,000 and you are paying back in interest payments as much as a tenant will pay in rent. So there’s no reason why you should pay as much property tax as someone who inherited his €400,000 house or who has finished reimbursing his mortgage 20 years ago.”

I have to admit that I cannot agree. My problem with this line of argument is that it is effectively a subsidy of leverage. This is something Ireland is consciously moving away from (for obvious reasons), in particular with the end of Mortgage Interest Relief.

Not that there is no debate to be had. Net wealth and gross wealth are separate concepts and it is certainly possible to consider which we might want to tax and why. However, taxes change behaviour and if you say to an economy “we will give you a tax rebate for every euro of debt you take on”, then if Ireland has €350bn in residential real estate, we should not be surprised if as a society that becomes our target for mortgage debt. While Thomas is correct to point out that net wealth is different to gross wealth, we should not forget that ignoring gross amounts and balance sheets is a large part of what got us (for us, read Ireland or world economy, as you choose) into this mess in the first place.

Perhaps more importantly, we tax property for a reason. That reason is that society is trying to recapture some of the wealth that it has created for private individuals, which is reflected in land values. (I am side-stepping one important issue for the moment, the property tax vs. land tax argument – as William Vickrey, 1996 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, noted: “The property tax is, economically speaking, a combination of one of the worst taxes, the part that is assessed on real estate improvements and one of the best taxes, the tax on land or site value.”)

So, the taxation of built capital aside, the taxation of land values is not just an arbitrary additional means of generating revenue. It is unique, in not affecting our behaviour, and in capturing pure economic rent. In the words of another Nobel Laureate, James Mirrlees:

Taxing land ownership is equivalent to taxing an economic rent – to do so does not discourage any desirable activity. Land is not a produced input; its supply is fixed and cannot be affected by the introduction of a tax. With the same amount of land available, people would not be willing to pay any more for it than before, so (the present value of) a land value tax would be reflected one-for-one in a lower price of land: the classic example of tax capitalisation.

If you alter that, by saying “you can borrow to buy land and not have to pay tax”, unsurprisingly you no longer have a uniquely beneficial tax. Clearly, we are far from land value tax in Ireland but the principle remains.

Even if one does not accept the argument that property tax is a charge on services provided by the state, there is a fundamental difference between a renter and a mortgage-holder: only the latter is buying a ticket to future wealth (in net terms, you already have it gross terms). At least two effects occur when you give debt-rebates for property tax. The first is increased leverage, as mentioned above.

The second is distributional and thus perhaps of even greater interest for Friday’s TASC conference. For example, in the case of Ireland, there are (very roughly) a third of households owning without a mortgage (the richest third), another third with mortgages and the final third living in rented accommodation (by and large the poorest third).

If you give a tax rebate to the middle group – who, remember, have wealth that the poorest third do not have – then by definition the other two groups have to pay more in tax to compensate (assuming that there is some fixed target for government revenues).

This doesn’t mean that I am unsympathetic to Ireland’s negative equity generation. Indeed, in the report I prepared on introducing Land Value Tax in Ireland in early 2012, I outlined precisely how one might take account of legacy negative equity in the new property tax system. But good policy should be future-proof – and can then be tweaked to take account of current circumstances. And given that it should be a major goal of policy to prevent huge negative equity from ever happening again, it seems odd that we would institutionalise this feature.

They say the best tax is an old tax. Failing that, the best tax is probably a simple one. Taxing the value of property (or ideally the value of land) is simple. Introducing tax rebates for debt – however well-intentioned – turns it into a game where everyone wants to minimise their tax liability (in this case by increasing their debt liabilities). For me, that’s not the way to go.

P.S. As is now customary for blogging economists (and perhaps soon mandatory), I feel I should reveal whether or not I’ve read Piketty’s book! It’s my book-of-the-month for June and I’m about 1/3 of the way through.