Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Google’s Tax Planning

By Brendan Walsh

Friday, October 11th, 2013

The Dutch Sandwich and Double Irish figure prominently in this FT article about Google’s tax returns for 2012.
It seems that Google Netherlands Holdings, which represents the Dutch part of the sandwich, received €8.6bn in royalties from Google Ireland Ltd last year.

Aviation policy ‘week’ this November

By Cathal Guiomard

Friday, October 4th, 2013

This year’s European Aviation Conference takes place at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland on 14 and 15 November. Programme, speakers, booking details and venue are at www.eac-conference.com.

Feedback after last year’s event indicated a greater preference for active debate, so almost the entire first day this year is devoted to a moderated discussion between ten invited advocates and critics of airport price regulation. And the 2013 Martin Kunz Memorial Lecture is to be given by the person credited with devising modern price cap regulation, Professor Stephen Littlechild.

HAC 2013 is preceded on Wednesday 13 November by a workshop of the German aviation research society (GARS); the call for papers is here: www.garsonline.de.

Unsated wonks can devote the entire week to aviation policy; IATA holds a two-day discussion on evaluating the economic effects of air transport on Monday and Tuesday 11-12 November in Geneva. Details on the GARS website given above.

An updated economics syllabus after 44 years would be an asset

By Stephen Kinsella

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

I don’t normally post my indo columns here, but I think readers of this blog may be interested in this one. The column follows on from last week’s discussion on this blog about the leaving certificate economics exam and its problems, but focuses on trying to secure a constructive outcome if possible.

I think we have to recognise two sets of constraints here.

  1. Second level teachers have mixed ability classes and can’t do an undergraduate level of work in their classrooms. The objective of leaving certificate economics is not to produce economists per se but rather economically knowledgeable citizens who study this subject as one among many subjects. Teachers and textbook writers are constrained by the 44 year old syllabus, but have to do their best with what they’ve got. So teachers will be rightly annoyed when reading comments about how potentially damaging the current syllabus is in terms of economic understanding.
  2. Third level economics lecturers like Kevin, Aedin and others rightly point out the deficiencies in the current exam content and structure and feel they should have some input into what is taught and why. Both sides agree the syllabus as is is not fit for purpose.

The solution, at least it seems to me, is to take the 2005 revised economics syllabus and update it together in a forum like the business studies teachers’ association, and present that to the NCCA. If everyone was happy enough with it, I don’t see why it couldn’t be rolled out fairly quickly with some inservice training for teachers.

It’s one thing to criticise and point out flaws when they exist, and Kevin and Aedin in particular were right to do so. But if we actually profess to know something about this subject, I think we should have a go at helping teachers to fix those flaws, if we can.

Leaving Certificate Economics

By Seamus Coffey

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Today’s Irish Independent has an article that looks at some issues Kevin Denny found from an analysis of the 2012 Higher Level Economics paper and the associated marking scheme.

Leaving Cert paper ‘full of problems’, minister warned, Irish Independent, 17/09/2013

Kevin has put up a post with links to his detailed comments.

New CEPR website

By Kevin O’Rourke

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

The CEPR has a new website accessible here.

Lessons from the 1950s?

By Frank Barry

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

The institutional innovations over the deep crisis of the 1950s gave birth to the modern Irish economy. I analysed the process in this article  in the Irish Independent last week.  Brendan Keenan re edited it slightly to highlight his interpretation of what I was saying. One of the fascinating things about writing anything is how it takes on a life of its own in readers’ minds.   (”And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us”).  Edna Longley once destroyed the meaning of something I had written by aggressive editing; fortunately no such problems arise with Brendan.  I wrote a similar piece for historyhub.ie, a new site developed by a group of young historians.  Though I disagree with much of what Bryce Evans has to say on Lemass, I found his interpretation of what I had written illuminating: “it makes the case very convincingly for expertise offered as a basis for policy-making being more robustly based on both independence and breadth of opinion.”

Today’s exam question

By Kevin O’Rourke

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

In honour of the fine examination weather we are having these days:

According to this morning’s Eurointelligence,

The Eurogroup will analyze to what extent past imbalances contribute to the current low growth, according to an unnamed Eurogroup official, and also whether Spain’s large current account deficit prior to the crisis can be attributed to the housing bubble, inappropriate banking supervision, or lax credit standards.

Does it make sense to attribute Spain’s current account deficit to Spanish policies alone? Be explicit about the theoretical and empirical assumptions you are making.

New Mortgages = Zero + Noise, Forecast and Outcome

By Gregory Connor

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Six months ago on this blog I made a quasi-prediction that the number of new residential mortgages in Ireland might shrink to zero-plus-noise. Arguably this has now happened. I claim no great insight and concede that it might have been dumb luck. My quasi-prediction was based on some informal liquidity-risk analysis of the Irish banks. The banks are in a corner solution with respect to long-term illiquid assets. There is little good reason for an Irish-domiciled bank to issue a new residential mortgage, rather, they might be keen to sell any of their existing long-term illiquid assets at a loss. This has only second-order policy importance relative to Greece, etc., but is worth documenting.

Incredible threats

By Kevin O’Rourke

Friday, May 18th, 2012

This really is one for the textbooks.

Nama Scheme Increases Recorded Property Sales Prices by Approximately 7.5%

By Gregory Connor

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In announcing its 80/20 negative equity insurance scheme, Nama management could have, but did not, provide estimates of the implicit cost of the insurance component of the package product. The cost is hidden in the package sales prices, which Nama management describe as “fair value prices” for the property.  With a bit of work, it is possible to reverse-engineer the insurance-component cost from the scanty information provided by Nama. 
(more…)

Nama giving away “free” insurance, thereby distorting both its published accounts and Irish property market prices

By Gregory Connor

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

I have written about this before, twice, but now some more details have emerged and the Nama scheme has gone live.  Nama has announced that it will providing ”free” insurance against price falls for selected properties, in order to help sell its Irish residential property portfolio.

 
From the information provided, it seems Nama will hide the insurance premium in the recorded property sales price, thereby simultaneously distorting Nama’s published accounts, CSO property sales price statistics, and the soon-to-be-released property price sales registry.

Wonkish paragraph: Hiding the insurance premium in this way also has a knock-on effect on the “moneyness” of the embedded option.  Since the actual sales price includes a hidden insurance premium, and the eventual valuation of the property (used to determine the insurance pay-out) does not include any insurance premium, the insurance scheme is immediately “in the red” as soon as the property is sold. Nama has to hope for price increases, not just the absence of decreases, in order to claw back the embedded insurance premium which is hidden in the distorted sales price. This knock-on effect can be quite substantial.

Interests, ideas and EMU

By Kevin O’Rourke

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

When teaching economic history a question that frequently arises in the classroom is: do governments make policy based on interests, or do ideas also matter? Is it the case, as George Stigler once wrote about the UK’s move towards free trade in 1846, that

Economists exert a minor and scarcely detectable influence on the societies in which they live. . . . If Cobden had spoken only Yiddish, and with a stammer, and Peel had been a narrow, stupid man, England would have moved toward free trade in grain as its agricultural classes declined and its manufacturing and commercial classes grew

Or is Keynes’ famous line about ideas, written in the 1930s, and which is now such a cliché that I can’t bring myself to reproduce it here, more accurate?

This distinction between interests and ideas seems to me to be potentially quite important now, in the context of the EMU crisis.

You sometimes hear the argument made that in the final analysis, the Germans will give in on Eurobonds and the like, since the costs to them of allowing EMU to break down would be so enormous. This is an interest-based, rational choice prediction. But what if the Germans are advocating generalized austerity and internal devaluation in the periphery, not just because they don’t want to bail out other countries, or accept a higher rate of inflation in Germany, but because they genuinely believe that this is what is required in order to solve the crisis? What if they genuinely believe that there are no macroeconomic problems, only microeconomic problems? I think that there is plenty of evidence in favour of this view, and the German chapter in this book helps place it in its historical context. In this case, I don’t see any reason to be optimistic about where this crisis is heading: we can expect to see plenty more headlines about collapsing output, rising unemployment, and political radicalization in the months and years ahead, and eventually something will give.

Just because something is a cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

The IT on Academic Blogging

By Karl Whelan

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A bit self-referential perhaps but readers might be interested in this Irish Times article on academic blogging.

Jan 27th Conference on Irish Economy - UPDATE

By Colm Harmon

Friday, January 13th, 2012

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 emma.barron@ucd.ie 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 emma.barron@ucd.ie, and see you there!

DEW Conference on Irish Economic Policy

Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin, January 27th 2012

0830-0900

Registration and Opening

0900-1030

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.”

1030-1100

Coffee

1100-1230

Unemployment

Demography

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.”

1230-1330

Lunch

1330-1500

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.”

1500-1530

Coffee

1530-1700

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.”

1700-1800

Panel Session on Irish Economy

Variable-rate Mortgages, Liquidity Funding, and the Euro

By Gregory Connor

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, received a clamour of popular support recently when he publicly objected to the Irish domestic banks planned decision not to decrease variable mortgage rates in response to the ECB cut in interest rates. The political establishment was warmly enthusiastic for Elderfield’s intervention. The government used its shareholding and political muscle to ensure that the banks’ decisions were reversed. The government also offered to provide the financial regulator with legislative power to determine banks’ mortgage rates. Wiser heads within the Central Bank prevailed, and the government was told by the Central Bank “thanks, but no thanks” for the offer of new legal power to set retail mortgage rates. (more…)

Kilkenomics 2011 Reminder

By Karl Whelan

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A reminder that the Kilkenomics festival gets in full swing today.

Walk-out from Greg Mankiw’s Class

By Liam Delaney

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

As part of ongoing protests in the US, a group of Harvard students staged a walk-out from Greg Mankiw’s introductory Economics class. Mankiw links to their letter, the Harvard Crimson article on the matter and a letter of defence here. In total, according to Mankiw, about 5-10 per cent of the students walked-out, and a group of other students then walked in as counter-protesters. It is an interesting question as to how students who object to the way Economics is taught deal with this issue, and how universities respond to them.

Kilkenomics 2011

By Karl Whelan

Monday, October 10th, 2011

I’ve agreed to participate in some sessions at this year’s Kilkenomics which will take place between Wednesday November 2 and Sunday November 6.  While obviously leaving myself open to (perhaps fair!) jokes about the differences between economists and comedians, I’m looking forward to it. I’d recommend people to take a look at the line-up. There are lots of interesting sessions on important issues and many excellent speakers, including Jeff Sachs from Columbia.

Ireland’s economists in the world

By Richard Tol

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I’ve taught myself the black art of web-scraping.

There are many rankings of economists and economics departments. IDEAS/RePEc uses a reasonable method and is kept up to date. It also provides rankings by and of countries. Ireland is now ranked 33rd in the world. Ireland’s economists are thus about as good as its soccer players (ranked 31st).

It wasn’t always thus. IDEAS/RePEc has published country rankings since 2005. Ireland’s position has steadily improved over time, as can be seen from this graph. As a number of economists are planning to emigrate, that trend may reverse.

Economists and the Media

By Karl Whelan

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Richard Tol has raised some interesting issues about the interaction between economists and the media. One point he makes is how much of the supposed expert commentary in the media is from people who have limited expertise. That’s not too controversial and I think is true of media throughout the world.

As I read it, however, Richard is also making another point related specifically to academics. This point is that only those who are experts in a particular area, as signified by their contributions to academic publications, should discuss this area with the media.

On balance, I don’t see much merit in this argument.

I’d make the following points:

First, while it is true that an economist with more frontier research contributions is (other things being equal) more likely to be smart and on top of their subject area, it is also true that the majority of economic policy issues that are discussed in the media do not relate these frontier debates.

For example, based on my publications in leading journals, I could bore for Ireland on the merits of the New Keynesian Phillips curve or the link between consumption spending and asset prices. However, the media aren’t too interested. Instead, they often ask me to discuss issues that a very good command of undergraduate or master’s level economics would allow a person to explain. In most cases, it does not take a frontier-economics level of expertise to answer the questions about bank balance sheets or fiscal policy that the media are often interested in.

This point probably holds particularly well for my specialised research area of macroeconomics but I think it holds pretty broadly across various subfields. For example, I think it’s now pretty well known that Richard Tol has published a large number of academic papers in the area of environmental economics. However, when economists, including Richard, appear in the Irish media to discuss environmental policy issues, in the vast majority of cases they are making points about taxes to curb externalities or pricing to match costs of services with costs of provision – points that I recall from second year undergraduate microeconomics.

To summarise, a smart economist without any frontier research publications in a particular area is perfectly capable of making useful points about a whole range of issues.

Second, when arguing that an academic should decline invitations to discuss anything other than issues they have published papers on, it’s worth keeping in mind the alternative the public will get to hear if the academic says no. Whatever Richard thinks about Irish academics, there is a large number of financial journalists and stockbrocker economists whose job is to say yes when asked to appear on these shows (in the case of the latter, they often appear to promote a particular interest group’s point of view).

In many cases, an academic that agrees to discuss an issue on which they have not published a paper is doing so because they have an opinion on the issue based on their expertise and because they are fairly sure that the alternative is that the public get to hear something from a journalist with very little background at all in economics or someone promoting a vested interest.

Third, Richard reckons that “The typical listener to the radio or watcher of the TV assumes that because someone is a professor and speaking on the topic, (s)he must be an expert.” Well, maybe that’s true in Holland but it sure isn’t true here. If you think everyone in Ireland thinks I’m an expert on issues I prognosticate on, I recommend reading the comments on this blog. Appearing with the title “Professor” is nice but if you can’t make cogent logical arguments, then the public won’t necessarily buy what you are saying.

Finally, I’d note that there is very little financial compensation for appearing on Irish TV and radio shows (fees are somewhere between very low, e.g. €50, and zero) and, from conversations with colleagues, I believe the majority of reasonably well known economists say no most of the time when asked to appear on these shows. I believe that those Irish academics who appear on TV and radio to discuss economic policy issues are largely doing so because they believe they have a useful contribution to make and that their state-paid salary places an obligation on them to make a useful contribution to debates about public policy.

Morgan Kelly’s Hubert Lecture

By Stephen Kinsella

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Prof. Morgan Kelly delivered the Hubert Butler Annual lecture tonight in Kilkenny as part of their Arts Festival. The audio of his talk is below, just click play to listen.

Morgan Kelly Hubert Butler Lecture

Public Policy and Behavioral Economics

By Liam Delaney

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

For those interested in behavioural economics, and its relevance to public policy, the recently released book by Congdon, Kling and Mullainathan, published by the Brookings Institute press, is essential reading. Entitled “Policy and Choice: Public Finance through the lens of behavioral economics”, the full book is free to download as a pdf file from the website. This is the best summary of the application of behavioral economics to public policy questions that I have read. There are chapters on asymmetric information, externalities, poverty and taxation, as well as summary and overview chapters. Ireland is in the process of fairly dramatically redesigning our health and pension systems and the insights from this book are extremely important to consider in this process. The first three chapters, in particular, are concise and clear descriptions of the main directions in this literature.

Next Generation Ireland

By Liam Delaney

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Am a bit late to this, but better late than never. Ronan Lyons, who has indirectly contributed a lot of material to this blog, and Ed Burke are co-editors of a new book called Next Generation Ireland. The book includes contributions from Ronan Lyons and Ed Burke themselves who give an introductory essay. Ronan also provides a chapter on improving the public sector and a co-authored chapter with Stephen Kinsella on improving fiscal policy in terms of both levels and composition. Eoin O’Malley takes on the issue of political and governmental reform. Michael Courtney has a chapter on identity, migration and citizenship. Michael King offers a chapter on improving competitiveness. Joseph Curtin has a chapter on environmental issues. Aoibhin de Burca has a chapter on North-South and Ireland-UK relations. Neil Sands and Nicola White provide an essay on the global extent of Irish identity and the importance of thinking along these dimensions. Co-editor Ed Burke’s final chapter is on Irish foreign policy.

Please feel free to use this post to debate aspects of the book if you have read it. Might also be worth debating what qualities the next generation of people who influence policy and business in Ireland should possess.

Brookings Papers are now freely available for all

By Kevin O’Rourke

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The Brookings Papers on Economic Activity are now freely available on the web. This is a really terrific resource which I hope will be of interest to lots of our readers. For example, you can read what some of the top economists in the world were saying at the time about the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the EMS crisis of 1992/3, and the East Asian crisis of the late 1990s, to name just three examples.

Bloomberg Profile of Patrick Honohan

By Philip Lane

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The article is here.

Economics Editor Job

By Philip Lane

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

For the journalists who read this blog, this BBC opportunity in Belfast may be of interest - details here.

Welfare and incentives

By Colm Harmon

Monday, January 24th, 2011

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.

(more…)

History of economic thought: back from the brink?

By Kevin O’Rourke

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Bright undergraduates tend to enjoy courses in the history of economic thought — I know I did — but the field is in an even more parlous state than economic history when it comes to the hiring decisions of economics departments. After all, why spend time studying the mistaken theories of the past, when you can study the superior theories that have replaced them?

(OK, perhaps that argument doesn’t seem quite so compelling now as it did a few years ago.)

So I was interested to see David Warsh’s report from the AEA meetings which quoted James Heckman, no less, as making the argument for history of thought courses in Economics PhD programmes. It follows the launching of a blog which promises to “engage current financial news and policy debates from the standpoint of the classics of monetary theory.”

And Brad makes the pitch in characteristically understated fashion here.

Irish Version of Gavyn Davies’ Graph

By Brendan Walsh

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Tony Leddin and I have included a version of this type of graph in successive editions of our textbook The Macroeconomy of Ireland.
Here are two slides showing the data for Ireland from 1970 to 2009.

(It proved easier to post a link to Flickr than to go through to rigmarole of uploading via this site!)

Happy Christmas!

Gavyn Davies’ suggestion for most important macro graph of the year

By Kevin O’Rourke

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Has anyone seen an Irish equivalent of this? A good way of framing macroeconomic debates…