‘Ireland after NAMA’ – New Blog

There is a new and interesting blog written mainly, but not exclusively, by geographers at http://irelandafternama.wordpress.com/

For a start, people may want to take a look at this map of vacant properties developed after 2006 – the national vacancy rate in 2006 was 15% but this updates the pattern with data on vacancies in properties developed after 2006, with some small areas going above 50%.

Class and Employment Decline

It is worth taking a closer look at the Quarterly National Household Survey results from last week. The difference between the public and private sectors has attracted some comment but there is much more going on here. In particular, the major trend that stands out is the disastrous collapse in working class employment with growing differences between the position of those with third level education and those without. The need for serious commitments in enterprise and employment policy, education and training policy, and housing/ mortgage support is clear.

Royalties and Licences – a data question

I’m interested in making sense of the massive gap between exports and imports of royalties and licences.

How do we interpret the high level of imports? Most of which are bought, according to the annual services inquiry, by the computer services industry (74% in 2006) with the rest split largely between R&D companies and wholesale trade companies (c. 10% each)

1. Are the royalties and licences being bought as inputs into production/ innovation? In which case it reflects a continuing dependence on international intellectual property and an ongoing weakness in innovation (particularly given the low level of exports of royalties etc)

2. Are they being bought as a way of repatriating profits?  In which case, it may either point to high levels of transfer pricing in the sectors that are importing these royalties and licences, or may reflect improved performance of their international operations by indigenous companies that are then re-patriating profits. if we had data on purchases by sector and nationality of firm we could get some insight into this question, but I haven’t seen that anywhere.

The data do not seem to be publicly available in order to figure out which of the above is at work, and to what degree.

Any tips on additional data or evidence – or interpretations – welcome.

Banking Reform

Once we have banks that have been re-capitalised and apparently stable once more, where does our financial system go? In negative terms, how can we be assured that the financial system will not generate crises on the kind of scale that we are currently living through? In positive terms, how can we increase the chances that finance flows toward productive rather than speculative uses?

These critical questions are largely sidelined in the current debates on nationalization, which have focused largely on the (urgent and very important) questions of how to restore the stability of the banking system and who will end up stuck with the bill. But, even if this is achieved at the least possible cost to the taxpayer (and therefore with the least possible constraint on public investment into the future), this still leaves the questions of stability and productive investment. There is little reason to suppose that an unreconstructed banking system will deliver this on its own – the banking system provided neither stability nor productive investment before this crisis. Reform of banks themselves will be essential, although this has largely disappeared off the agenda in recent months.

There are five areas through which we can influence how banking practices are shaped by the wider system of financial governance (some of these are usefully reviewed in Stiglitz and Uy’s account of the ‘East Asian Miracle’). In each area, the system has left a great deal to be desired and requires reform.

Stimulus for Development

Commentators across the spectrum have worried that the April budget will tax and cut so much money out of the economy that we will face serious deflation. There has been a shift in emphasis from the over-riding importance of minimizing the budget deficit to recognizing the need to minimize the deflationary effects of fiscal measures. We are seeing an increasing number of proposals in that regard.

This is not unrelated to a second major political shift – the re-opening of partnership discussions and the potential for working through more complex and multi-layered ways out of this crisis. I can’t see any other institutions that can put together a combination of measures to promote a growth strategy that would accompany fiscal measures.

Without that growth strategy, the fiscal measures will not achieve their desired goal. We will simply end up chasing our tails, raising tax rates on a declining tax base and promoting deflation by combining tax increases, employment reductions, spending and wages cuts in a single year. Immediate measures to restore a degree of fiscal stability and reduce the budget deficit are necessary – but require a strong countervailing growth policy to restore the economy, and even to maintain those narrow fiscal goals.