Potential Output and Output Gaps

 

Happy new year to all. In case some of you missed it, the Department of Finance published two working papers (by Gavin Murphy, Martina Nacheva and Luke Daly) just prior to Christmas looking at the ever topical issue of Ireland’s output gap. Both papers can be accessed at this link. The first paper takes a detailed look and review of the main methods used to estimate the cyclical position of an economy. The authors highlight the diversity of modelling approaches used across institutions both within Ireland and abroad. The second paper outlines in detail the methodology used by the Department to produce estimates of the output gap for Ireland. To date, the Department has used the European Commission’s harmonised approach (i.e. common to all EU Member States), which has at times resulted in counterintuitive estimates of Ireland’s cyclical position. This research seeks to develop more plausible estimates taking better account of the nature of Ireland’s small open economy. Such work will enable the Department to better evaluate the appropriate fiscal stance and the sustainability of public finances over the medium term.  For those with an interest in macroeconomic modelling and forecasting as well as fiscal policy related issues, the papers offer an invaluable source of information into what can be a complex area.

 

New Central Bank Quarterly Bulletin

Today, the Bank published its fourth quarterly bulletin of the year (Quarterly Bulletin (QB4 – October 2018), containing new projections to 2020.

The economy continues to grow at a robust pace and momentum has picked up since our last set of published forecasts (July). Economic activity remains underpinned by robust and broad based growth in employment and incomes. In turn, underlying domestic spending has gained further momentum reflecting strong consumption and (underlying) investment expenditures. Overall, we see underlying domestic demand growing by 5.6 per cent this year, before moderating to 4.2 per cent in 2019 and 3.6 per cent in 2020. In GDP terms, we expect growth of 6.7 per cent this year, 4.8 per cent in 2019 and 3.7 per cent in 2020. The labour market continues to move towards full employment with the headline unemployment rate expected to be below 5 per cent in 2019 and 2020.

While the outlook remains favourable, a number of significant downside risks remain. On the domestic side, the main vulnerabilities relate to the cyclical strength of the recovery. On the external side, risks centre on Brexit and any further disruptive changes to international tax and trading regimes given the openness of the Irish economy.

Aside from the normal outlook and commentary, the Bulletin contains a number of Boxes highlighting research on some key issues. These include pieces on Brexit, the international economy and risks relating to Corporation Tax flows. The Bulletin also contains a chapter on financing developments in the economy and a signed article examining financial risks and buffers in the Central Bank.

Boxes

  • Macroeconomic Implications of the UK Government Brexit White Paper: A Preliminary Analysis (Box A – page 13)
  • International economic outlook (Box B – page 17)
  • Risk related to Corporation Tax Flows (Box C – page 33)

On the financing side of the economy, there are pieces on:

  • Income Statement Statistics and Ireland’s Banking System (Box A – page 48)
  • Retrocession: Reinsuring the Reinsurer (Box B – page 52).

Signed Articles

The Bulletin includes a signed article by Doran, Gleeson, Kilkenny and Ramanauskas (2018), on “Assessing the Financial Risks and Buffers of the Central Bank.”

 

New publication from the CSO on productivity in Ireland

The CSO have a new publication, which it is intended to update annually, on productivity in Ireland.  It is available here.

The analysis assesses the contribution of labour and capital to growth in Ireland and splits the economy into an MNE-dominated sector and a domestic and other sector.  A breakdown using the standard NACE classifications is also provided.  The first publication covers the period from 2000 to 2016 but the analysis is undertaken for a number of sub-periods, most notably 2000 to 2014, which exclude the dramatic shifts we have seen since 2015.

Here is the summary but the entire publication is well worth a look:

This publication has presented new CSO results for productivity in the Irish economy since 2000. Some key aspects of this publication are set out below.

Irish labour productivity growth averaged 4.5 percent in the period to 2016, significantly for the period ending 2014 the equivalent growth rate is 3.4 percent. This compares with an EU average of 1.8 percent for the entire period to 2016. The contribution of the Foreign sector to labour productivity growth averaged 10.9 percent over the period to 2016 and averaged 6.2 percent to 2014. For the Domestic and Other sectors, the result to 2016 was 2.5 percent to 2016 and 2.4 percent to 2014. This clearly illustrates that the impact from the globalisation events of 2015 are concentrated in the Foreign sector as there is little change in the results for the Domestic and Other sector for the two periods.

Multi-factor productivity (MFP) has played a small part in explaining Ireland’s economic growth over the entire period 2000-2016. However, when the period 2000 -2014 is examined, i.e. excluding the effects of 2015, the picture for multi-factor productivity in the Irish economy improves and this is clearly illustrated in Figure 5.6 and 5.7. Growth in MFP was higher for the Foreign sector than the Domestic and Other sector up to 2014. However, the negative result for MFP in the Foreign sector in 2015 and in the overall economy over the full period is due to the impact of the globalisation events of 2015 on capital services where no corresponding change in labour input occurred. A major aspect of Ireland’s growth, and therefore its productivity story over the period, is the growth in capital.

Ireland’s capital stock per worker has increased from €150,000 to €378,000 per worker between 2000 and 2016, an increase of 152 percent. Capital stock per worker for the Foreign sector increased by an average annual growth rate of 6.9 percent to 2014. When the period is extended to 2016, the growth rate increases substantially to almost 32 percent. For the Domestic and Other sector, the growth in capital stock per worker is around 3.5 percent for both the periods to 2014 and for the entire period to 2016. The EU average annual growth in capital stocks per worker from 2000 to 2016 was 0.6 percent. The rate of increase in capital stocks in Ireland for both the Foreign sector and the Domestic and Other sector was higher than for any country in the EU for which data are available.

As this is the first productivity publication by CSO the results are considered experimental. There is considerable scope for extending the analysis presented in this publication to more detailed presentation by economic sector or to more detailed analysis of labour quality, i.e. gender, education, employment etc and their impacts on productivity. We look forward to a full engagement with our stakeholders to assist in setting priorities for future work in this area.

 

New Central Bank Quarterly Bulletin Published

The Central Bank published the Quarterly Bulletin (QB 2 – April 2018) today. The economy continues to perform well with the growth outlook revised upwards by close to half a percentage point to 4.5 per cent on average in 2018/19 (relative to the last set of forecasts in January). This outlook is underpinned by robust domestic demand, solid prospects for the labour market and a supportive international environment. At the same time however, a number of significant tail risks remain. These predominantly relate to the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks, namely Brexit related exposures, any increase in protectionist trade policies, changes to international tax regimes (that could affect FDI decisions) and disruptive exchange rate movements.

Some of the forecast highlights within the Bulletin include:

  • labour market – we now see the unemployment rate falling below 5 per cent to average 4.8 per cent in 2019, with close to 99,000 additional jobs being created this year and next. Annual employment growth is expected to average 2.2 per cent in 2018 and 2019, moderating from growth rates of close to 3 per cent in recent years
  • domestic spending – underlying domestic demand (which attempts to strip out much of the noise in some of the components of investment) is forecast to grow by 4.3 per cent per annum in both 2018 and 2019
  • trade – net exports are expected to support growth over the forecast horizon.
  • inflation – consumer prices were subdued last year but we expect some pick-up towards closer to 1 per cent in 2018 and 2019, as the effects of past sterling weakness unwind coupled with strong domestic demand.

Aside from the normal commentary and forecasts for the economy, the Bulletin contains Boxes on:

  • International economic outlook (Box A – page 11)
  • Sterling depreciation (Box B – page 14)
  • Leading indicators of new housing output (Box C – page 17)
  • Vacancies and wage growth (Box D – page 22).

On the financing side of the economy, there are pieces on:

  • Trends in Bank Lending to SMEs (Box A – page 35)
  • Exposures of Irish-Resident Investors to Offshore Financial Centres (Box B – page 40).

Signed Articles

The Bulletin includes two signed articles by Donnery, Fitzpatrick, Greaney, McCann and O’Keeffe (2018), on “Resolving Non-Performing Loans in Ireland 2010-2018” and one by Conefrey and McIndoe-Calder (2018) on “Where are Ireland’s Construction Workers?”

Central Bank Quarterly Bulletin (QB 1 2018) published

Today, the Bank published its first Quarterly Bulletin (QB 1 – January 2018) of the year, including forecasts to 2019. The outlook remains robust with GDP forecast to grow by 4.4 and 3.9 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. This forecast is underpinned by strong domestic demand and broad based employment gains.

Some of the highlights include:

  • the increasing prospect of full employment – we see the unemployment rate falling towards 5 per cent by next year with an additional 89,000 persons in employment.
  • the composition of employment is likely to differ markedly relative to the previous employment peak (in 2007). Back then, 1 in 9 persons were directly employed in construction relative to 1 in 16 expected in 2019.
  • Inflationary pressures remaining subdued but picking up from 0.7 per cent this year to 0.9 per cent in 2019. This partly reflects an unwinding of the negative impact on goods prices from recent euro/sterling exchange rate movements. (For more on exchange rate pass through, see Reddan and Rice (2017)).
  • The main risks relate to Brexit, the global trade and taxation environment as well as domestic overheating.

As regards the latter, a key question at present is the extent of remaining slack within the economy and prospects for wages and employment. Recent research within the Bank (Linehan et al., (2017) and Byrne and Conefrey (2017)) have addressed some of these issues. Further, the newly published labour market data (documented in the Bulletin) indicate that broader measures of labour supply signal that that there is still additional labour supply available. All of this suggests that while labour market conditions are tightening, there is still scope for unemployment to fall further before more significant wage pressures emerge.

Irish Economy

In terms of the Irish economy, the Bulletin contains short Boxes on:

  • international economic outlook (Box A – page 12)
  • the recovery in personal consumption expenditure (Box B – page 15)
  • trade deflators dynamics (Box C – page 21)
  • the new labour force survey (Box D – page 24).

Financing Developments

On the financing side of the economy, there are short pieces on:

  • household debt and disposable income (Box A – page 38)
  • the statistical treatment of new bank holding company structures (Box B – page 44 )
  • holders of Irish resident investment funds shares across the Euro Area (Box C – page 46).

Finally, the Bulletin also includes a signed article by Kelly and Osborne-Kinch (2018) looking at new quarterly statistics on insurance corporations.

Independent Ireland in Comparative Perspective

I gave the economics lecture at the recent national conference at NUIG commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising. I had three main messages. First, the economic history of post-independence Ireland was not particularly unusual. Very often, things that were happening in Ireland were happening elsewhere as well. Second, for a long time we were hampered by an excessive dependence on a poorly performing UK economy. And third, EC membership in 1973, and the Single Market programme of the late 1980s and early 1990s, were absolutely crucial for us. Irish independence and EU membership have complemented each other, rather than being in conflict: each was required to give full effect to the other. Irish independence would not have worked as well for us as it did without the EU; and the EU would not have worked as well for us as it did without political independence.

There is a podcast available here. Since only audio is available, here is a link to my slides. I’m working on a paper version of the talk and will post a link to this as soon as possible.

The fatal flaw of the populist approach

The world is awash with populists. From Ireland’s independents to President Duterte of the Philippines, from Germany’s anti-immigrant AfD party to Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, from Ukip and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain to Donald Trump in the US, populists are on the rise. And we’re not talking just a few random demagogues here, though personality does go a long way. (Trump-related Pulp Fiction pun intended, by the way.)

We are seeing a rise in populist parties getting and holding onto power in several European countries including Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Ireland and Switzerland. Iceland is about to elect the Pirate Party (no really) to power. The French Front National may well take power in France, riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment there.

Populists come from both sides of the political spectrum: Greece’s Syriza party and Spain’s Podemos party consider themselves of the left, while Germany’s AfD and France’s Front National are on the far right.

So it’s a problem. Old, established, centrist parties have lost their grip on power – spectacularly so in Greece – while newer parties are standing mostly on a basis of what they are not – Corbyn is not a Blairite, Marine Le Pen is not Nicolas Sarkozy, and so forth. The 32nd Dáil contains 19 TDs who are nominally ‘independent’, with 12 more in left or far-left groupings. Ireland does not produce far-right TDs that often, though it does produce some very right-wing policies from time to time.

Continue reading “The fatal flaw of the populist approach”

That 26% growth rate: two weeks on

The recent publication by the CSO of the 2015 National Income and Expenditure Accounts generated a lot of reaction.  There is no doubt that a 26.3 per cent real GDP growth is bizarre but it was not farcical, false or based on fairy tales.

Many commentators went out of their way to highlight that the figures did not characterise what was happening “on the ground” in the Irish economy.  But this seems like a bit of a strawman.  Instead of being told what the figures were we were been scolded over what they weren’t.  No one said the economy was growing at 26 per cent.  Arguments against using GDP in an Irish context have made for the past quarter of a century.  Even as recently as March, when the first growth estimates for 2015 were provided, there were plenty of people who pointed that the underlying growth rate of the economy was probably around half of the 7.8 per cent growth rate in real GDP shown at that time.

But a 26.3 per cent real GDP growth rate is very very unusual.  And one that deserves understanding rather than dismissal.  However, the discussion of the figures has generated more heat than light.  At the briefing it seems three items were identified as having oversized effects on the national accounts’ aggregates. These were:

  • aircraft leasing
  • inversions and corporate restructurings, and
  • asset transfers to Ireland

Continue reading “That 26% growth rate: two weeks on”

Economy expands by 26.3%

Or at least that is what the national accounts tell us.  The CSO have published the National Income and Expenditure Accounts for 2015.  These show that real GDP expanded by 26.3 per cent in 2015 and real GNP grew by 18.7 per cent.  Do these numbers mean anything?  It is hard to know.

Looking at the expenditure approach the big real changes were in investment (+26.7%), exports (+34.4%) and imports (+21.7%).

In nominal terms, exports in 2015 were put at €317.2 billion, up from €219.8 billion in 2014. Exports minus imports was €81.2 billion compared to €34.6 billion in 2014.  We would usually expect most of this to feed through to the outflow of factor payments but net factor income from abroad only went from –€29.7 billion in 2014 to –€53.2 billion in 2015.  That means most of the improvement in net exports also contributed to GNP but the “gross” part of this seems to be important.

The reason is that there seems to be an awful lot happening on the asset side of the national accounts.  The nominal provision for depreciation rose from €30.9 billion in 2014 to €61.6 billion in 2015.  It looks like a large part of the increase in gross value added in 2015 of €60 billion went to cover the depreciation of assets.

The biggest source of the additional value added was in the Industry sector which rose 97.8 per cent in real terms over in the year (and in nominal terms rose €50 billion).  The CSO don’t provide a sectoral breakdown for this (they usually do) but it is probably a safe guess that a large part of it is related to the chemical and pharmaceutical sector.

One explanation is that a number of sectors saw MNCs move intangible assets onshore.  This increases gross value added in Ireland as there are no longer outbound royalty payments.  There is also a once-off increase in investment when the asset moves here (but the growth effect of this is offset by the import of the asset).

It is also worth noting that the increase in value added isn’t necessarily related to goods manufactured in Ireland.  The CSO’s External Trade data, which only include goods that physically leave Ireland, shows €111 billion of goods exports from Ireland in 2015.  Goods exports in the national accounts are done on a different basis (where ownership rather than location matters) and show exports of €195 billion.  A large part of the value added from these exports is accounted for in Ireland.

So we have a large increase in gross value added but this doesn’t fully feed through to increases in wages and/or profits.  Non-agricultural wages and salaries rose from €67.7 billion in 2014 to €71.5 billion in 2015.

The domestic trading profits of companies rose from €52.3 billion in 2014 to €74.4 billion in 2015.  This €22 billion increase roughly corresponds the increased outflow of net factor income.  Profits before depreciation would be up by even more but a lot of that went against the fall in the value of the assets.

But even then the value on onshored assets can’t account for all of this.  Most of the increase in investment can be attributed to research and development which in nominal terms rose from €9.6 billion in 2014 to €21.3 billion in 2015.  It is likely that most of this increase is due to once-off purchases of intangible assets rather than ongoing expenditure on R&D.

There may also be impacts from the aircraft leasing sector.  Although the investment figures show a small decrease in investment in transport equipment in 2015, a balance-sheet effect may have resulted in increased aircraft assets being accounted for in Ireland.  Gross value added in aircraft leasing may be high but depreciation of the asset would again consume a lot of this.

The CSO highlighted this and slide 6 of their presentation on the figures shows that Ireland’s gross capital stock rose by about €300 billion in 2015, from €750 billion to €1,050 billion.  Even with today’s inflated figures this corresponds to an increase in the gross capital stock equivalent to 120 per cent of GDP in just one year. Investment in 2015 was equivalent to just over 20 per cent of GDP so these balance-sheet effects impacted the capital stock to the tune of almost 100 per cent of GDP.

The best we can do to strip out all of this madness is probably to look at net national income which excludes the provision for depreciation from all assets and accounts for net factor income from abroad.

Net National Income at Market Prices grew by 6.5 per cent in 2015 which is probably somewhere around where “the Irish economy” grew at in 2015 rather than the 26.3 per cent that “the economy in Ireland” grew by.

Managing the Budget with High Debt and No Currency

A sovereign state with low debt can access liquidity through the markets. There are limits and they will be reached when the debt ratio begins to send out distress calls. Until that (unknown) point, there are, in effect, un-borrowed foreign exchange reserves. With an independent currency liquidity can be created for government or banks without external conditionality. There are limits here too and creating excess liquidity brings inflation risk and exchange rate pressure.
With high debt and hence uncertain access to bond markets a short-term expansion cannot safely be financed through debt sales without constraining capacity to repeat the procedure. Without a currency either, the creation of liquidity is conditional on the cooperation of the foreign central bank. If its conditions include constraints on fiscal action there can be no stabilisation policy – no exchange rate, no monetary or fiscal discretion.
Most Eurozone governments can borrow in the markets at low rates, courtesy of QE, despite historically high debt ratios. In the absence of QE the perception of capacity to borrow could diminish rapidly. Availability of QE is in any event not automatic – there is none for Greece, for example. There are also unclear conditions on ELA creation by national CBs. Consent from the ECB can be withdrawn arbitrarily or may be permitted only on penal conditions, such as pay-offs to unguaranteed creditors of bust banks.
The Eurozone governments with high debt face an illusion of policy space in current circumstances, with apparently easy access to debt markets. The constraint appears to be the EU rules about budgetary limits, as long as QE lasts.
But QE will end at some stage and the constraint becomes the market demand for sovereign debt. The design problem for fiscal policy (the only stabilisation tool available) is to manage the trade-off between using it now and having less to use later. Since the election Irish politicians have found agreement on two policies: (i) that the European Commission should be lobbied to relax the budget rules and (ii) that government should borrow ‘off balance sheet’.
Policy (i), lobbying the Commission, sacrifices future budget flexibility explicitly. The inverse demand curve for sovereign debt is r = f(D) where D is the debt ratio. Unless f(D) is flat the sacrifice is real. Moreover f(D) is unknown, although known not to be flat. Unless sovereign bond buyers are unable to count (ii), hiding sovereign liabilities, is just gaming the Eurostat debt definition. This definition (gross general government debt to gross output) is not a serious measure of debt servicing capability and, after QE, a sovereign could easily be inside some EU limit and unable to borrow. Eurostat does not lend money.
There are arguments for battling to borrow: interest costs are low and it is an article of faith that high-value public investment projects are plentiful. The trade-off (looser policy now versus the risk of ill-timed tightening later) would look better if the economy was becalmed, multipliers high, debt ratios modest, macro-volatility historically low and the foreign central bank known to be benign. None of these conditions applies currently in Ireland.
There is a case for using the QE respite to borrow reserves, accepting the negative carry, as NTMA appears to be doing. The case for deferring the attainment of budget balance is harder to see.

“No recovery here”

One of the really interesting outcomes of the last election was the rejection by voters of the Fine Gael strap line: let’s keep the recovery going. As measured by GDP growth, Ireland was rebounding from its period of austerity very strongly, with the fastest GDP growth in Europe.

A household sector which had just received an income tax cut, child benefit increases, pension increases, social welfare increases, public sector pay increases (or restorations, whatever), threw the main party’s ‘recovery’ line back in its face at the doorsteps–what recovery, they asked. No recovery here.

This was taken to mean that there was no recovery outside of Dublin. Dan O’Brien’s series of columns have dispelled that myth. There is a recovery in rural Ireland, it’s just not happening as quickly as in the capital, where employment levels are now 96% of their 2008 peak. In the Mid-West employment levels are at 88% of their peak.

Source: CSO.ie
Source: CSO.ie

Then a long and rambling discussion on the corporate tax element of Ireland’s apparent rebound took place, largely on twitter. The volatility of the corporate tax take in Ireland is exceptional.

Yet another strand of the argument is given by thinking about Ireland in relation to Europe. Philip Connolly of the times in Ireland showed me these data of GDP per capita in purchasing power parity adjusted euros compare it with an actual income for consumption measure. The graph below is from Eurostat and shows the difference in the two measures  with Ireland and Luxemburg showing a very large difference between these two measures of household welfare. Using the AIC measure, Irish households are closer to Italian than Danish levels of welfare.

Source: Eurostat
Source: Eurostat

This may give a clue as to why we see such large differences between official rhetoric and the popular reaction to that rhetoric.

 

 

 

Report of the Fiscal Council

Is here (.pdf). A few days late to this, so apologies, but just one thought:

Think how far our budgetary institutions have evolved. From Charlie McCreevy getting up on Budget Day in the early 2000s and announcing measures his own cabinet hadn’t heard of, to today’s fiscal council reports, Spring Statements, National Economic Dialogues, to the design of new structures like the Budget Oversight Committee, reviews of the process of national budgeting (.pdf), a Parliamentary Budget Office to cost the figures independently, and an agreed spending envelope by the public, a lot has changed in 15 years.

Despite the annoyance it generated during the election, the ‘fiscal space’ is a well recognized academic idea dating back to the 1990s, and the fact that the entire debate took place using broad parameters everyone serious agreed upon is a very good thing. We actually had a debate in Ireland, messy and all as it was, on whether to spend more on services, or give back more in tax cuts. Thus informed, the public chose the former in large numbers. They want a recovery in services.

Draft SPU Update: Risks

The Department of Finance has released a Spring-less Statement (.pdf), showing some interesting debt dynamics projections and a really nice risk-assessment section (see page 26) and their likely impacts on the Irish economy. Brexit figures highly, as one might imagine, but so do other external demand shocks and domestic issues, and the fiscal risks associated with not meeting our climate change targets. The Department writes:

There are fiscal risks associated with a legally binding EU Effort Sharing Decision on climate change covering the 2013-2020 period. Ireland is obliged to achieve a 20 per cent Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction (compared to 2005 levels) in certain sectors. Current EPA projections estimate that Ireland will not achieve this reduction and failure to comply may incur costs of hundreds of millions through the purchase of carbon credits until such time as the target is complied with. Similarly, further new costs may arise in the context of a new EU climate and energy framework for the period 2020-2030, which will set new emissions reduction targets.

Scary stuff.

Redistribution in the Age of Austerity

Readers of this blog might be interested in this working paper we’ve just put up on the Levy working paper series. The abstract is below.

We examine the relationship between changes in a country’s public sector fiscal position and inequality at the top and bottom of the income distribution during the age of austerity (2006–13). We use a parametric Lorenz curve model and Gini-like indices of inequality as our measures to assess distributional changes. Based on the EU’s Statistics on Income and Living Conditions SLIC and International Monetary Fund data for 12 European countries, we find that more severe adjustments to the cyclically adjusted primary balance (i.e., more austerity) are associated with a more unequal distribution of income driven by rising inequality at the top. The data also weakly suggest a decrease in inequality at the bottom. The distributional impact of austerity measures reflects the reliance on regressive policies, and likely produces increased incentives for rent seeking while reducing incentives for workers to increase productivity.

African Demographic Trends and European Policy Responses

The Demographic Transition, which started in Europe in the late 18th century, had a huge positive impact on average human welfare. Population levels and growth rates became dependent upon societal preferences rather than upon famine and disease. The demographic transition has now spread around the world to all continents, except Africa. Surprisingly, Africa has not made the switch. Rather than seeing population growth easing and then stopping, in a typical post-demographic transition pattern, African population growth rates have stayed at a very high rate for many decades. Even in recent years, while many demographers expected a slowdown finally to take hold, African population levels have rocketed up. So for example, from the National Geographic: Continue reading “African Demographic Trends and European Policy Responses”

Irish Performance since Independence and the Scottish Debate

This paper of mine just came out in a special issue of Oxford Review of Economic Policy on the question of Scottish independence.  I had been asked to reflect on Irish economic performance since independence, on the exercise of fiscal and monetary sovereignty, and on migration policy, without saying anything about Scotland.

From an earlier draft I attach a comparison of population growth in Ireland and Scotland and their respective peripheries.

Changes to national accounting practices

There has been some comments in the media over the past week or so about changes to the way national accounts are compiled in the EU.

A good deal of this has focussed on changes relating to illegal/informal/underground economic activities.  It should be noted that there is no change to the treatment of these activities in ESA2010.  The definitions and conceptual approach to such activities remains exactly as it was in ESA95.  The major differences between ESA95 and ESA2010 are summarised here.

Continue reading “Changes to national accounting practices”

Profiling the indebtedness of Irish SMES

This is exactly the kind of responsive research the Irish Central Bank should be doing. The Central Bank’s Fergal McCann takes a look at Irish SME indebtedness in the wake, presumably, of Morgan’s latest Irish Times op-ed on the subject. Fergal solves the data problem the ICB has for SME indebtedness levels using Red-C data.

There’s no doubt, I think, that there is a serious debt problem within Irish SMEs. But 34% lot of them have no debt at all, with others with very little debt relative to turnover.

McCann’s work is not of the ‘it’s grand lads, nothing to look at here’ variety, either, and it does put a shape on the problem for us.

The seriously indebted medium-sized enterprises are in trouble, though, and we now have a good measure of the likely extent of how many of these firms there are.

Domestic demand, credit flows, and employment

In a speech largely saying nothing, Mario Draghi today described how domestic demand, and absence of reforms are risks to growth. Reforms, of course, could mean anything at all, and they are the Eurocrat catch-all for ‘we don’t know’, but domestic demand is something we can measure, and it’s something the ESRI have worked a lot on recently (.pdf). Your average undergraduate knows about the relationship between employment and domestic demand, and should also be aware that credit conditions matter for the growth of the real economy.

If we look at the Irish economy, in levels indexed to Q1, 2007, the chart below shows total domestic demand and employment on the left hand axis, which I start at 60 to pull out the difference between them a bit, and, measured on the right hand axis, the bar chart shows the flow of credit advanced when you exclude financial intermediation and property.

On the last reading domestic demand is about 21% down from Q1, 2007, while employment is about 15% down from the peak in early 2008. The annual change in the employment series from Q42012 to Q42013 is about 3%, while the annual change in demand is almost 0%.

Credit advanced meanwhile is, unsurprisingly, negative, relative to Q1 2007, from Q3 2010 onwards.

The latest national accounts data

I have been waiting for someone else to post on the national accounts data for 2013, available here, but no-one has yet, and it deserves a thread.

Real GDP, which as we know is mis-measured as a result of transfer pricing, declined 0.3% in 2013. Real GNP, which we learned last year has its problems too, was up by 3.4%. Nominal GDP rose by just 0.1%, which is not good for the debt to GDP ratio. Nominal GNP rose by 4%.

I guess that a marketing problem the government faces is that if it plays up the GNP numbers too much as being clearly superior, which I suppose we still believe they are (?), someone out there may start dividing our debt by GNP.

Domestic demand in historical context

Today’s CSO readings are good news and should be seen in their recent historical context.

News headlines are pointing to the ‘domestic’ part of the economy experiencing an uptick. Let’s look at final domestic demand as one measure of this. The two figures below bear this out, with the latest data coloured in red, and the series indexed to 2008 Q1, the peak of final domestic demand. The first plots out the movement from 2002 until 2013 Q3, the second from 2010.

The clear uptick can be seen, but the economy is obviously still fragile and the uptick, in the context of a rather demand-depressed economy, shouldn’t be overstated.

Successful Completion of Tenth Review of Troika Programme

In a statement issued at the end of this Review yesterday, we were given the by-now familiar plaudits for achieving various benchmarks. Going forward, ‘strict implementation’ of this year’s budgetary targets is urged.

The gravity of the unemployment situation is acknowledged. ‘Swift action needed to deal with unemployment’ the newspaper headlines proclaimed. The onus for this is placed on the Irish government and a familiar list of policies proposed, including for example ‘the need for enhanced engagement with the unemployed and the opening up of competition in sheltered sectors like legal services’.

I wonder how much our readers think increased competition between lawyers will contribute to lowering our unemployment rate.

Reaping the Benefits of Globalisation: What are the Opportunities and Challenges for Europe and Ireland?

This Conference, jointly organised with the European Commission, is an associated event of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. It will present and discuss the main findings of the 2012 edition of the European Competitiveness Report as well as recent related empirical evidence and their implications for industrial and innovation policies in Europe and Ireland. The Conference Programme and more information are available here.