A Short History of Brexit (Part 2: notes from Chapter 8 on)

CHAPTER 8: BREXIT

  1. Young (1999), p. 483.
  2. The speech is available at https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/113686.
  3. Young (1999), p. 479.
  4. Grob-Fitzgibbon (2016), pp. 438–9.
  5. The speech itself, as well as a superbly useful range of accompanying documents, is available at https://www.margaretthatcher.org/archive/Bruges.asp.
  6. Young (1999), p. 423.
  7. Grob-Fitzgibbon (2016), p. 451.
  8. Grob-Fitzgibbon (2016), p. 453; https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1990/09/27/the-chequers-affair/.
  9. A reference presumably to the European Commission’s Commissioners.
  10. Cited in Seldon and Collings (2000).
  11. Young (1999), p. 362.
  12. https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/108234.
  13. http://www.britpolitics.co.uk/speeches-sir-geoffrey-howe-resignation.
  14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1701003.stm.
  15. Young (1999), p. 433.
  16. I have put the word ‘victory’ in inverted commas to highlight the way in which much of the British political class and media have traditionally portrayed EU negotiations in terms of victory and defeat, rather than compromise and mutual benefit.
  17. The origins of these numbers, which seem arbitrary, are murky. On one account the 3 per cent figure is, like VAT, a gift from France to the world: see https://www.latribune.fr/opinions/tribunes/20101001trib000554871/ a-l-origine-du-deficit-a-3-du-pib-une-invention-100-francaise.html.
  18. Which is why I and 38 other Irish citizens were able to stand for election in the French municipal elections of 2014. And it should be noted that there were also 389 British candidates; see http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/decryptages/2014/03/19/25003-20140319ARTFIG00358-d-o-viennent-les-candidats-etrangers-aux-municipales.php.
  19. See Eichengreen and Wyplosz (1993) for a detailed account of the EMS crisis of 1992–3. Like all the Brookings Papers it is freely available online at https://www.brookings.edu/project/brookings-papers-on-economic-activity/.
  20. Young (1999), p. 369.
  21. Both statements are equally true of the Clinton years.
  22. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37550629. 23. Shipman (2017), p. 6.
  23. Kenny and Pearce (2018). 25. Ibid., pp. 131, 145.
  24. Shipman (2017), p. 7.
  25. Ibid., p. 8.
  26. Delors’s statement is available at https://core.ac.uk/display/76794060; the quotations in the text are taken from pp. 17–18.
  27.   Gstöhl (1994).
  28. Shipman (2017), p. 15.
  29. Available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/21787/0216-euco-conclusions.pdf.
  30. Shipman (2017), pp. 588–9.
  31. See O’Toole (2018).
  32. See for example https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/boris-johnson-european-union-hitler-1.3583108.
  33. Although I was a member of the Centre for European Reform’s Commission on the UK and the Single Market, I declined to sign a resultant letter to the newspapers on what the UK ought to do, as well as similar subsequent efforts, for two reasons. First, I’m not British, and I know from the Irish experience how irritating it is to have foreigners telling you what to do at times like this. And second, it wasn’t at all clear to me that economists’ letters were particularly helpful. On that score at least, I think I was (unfortunately) right.
  34. The statement led to a sharp rise in the British pound and a bigger subsequent collapse, all of which helped certain lucky investors to make a lot of money (Shipman 2017, pp. 432–4).

Continue reading “A Short History of Brexit (Part 2: notes from Chapter 8 on)”

Economic and Social Review, Winter 2018

The latest edition of the Economic and Social Review is  now available (Vol 49, No 4, Winter 2018) containing the following articles:

The Impact of Displacement on the Earnings of Workers in Ireland by           Nóirín McCarthy and Peter W. Wright

Incumbency Advantage in an Electoral Contest by Matthew T. Cole,             Ivan Pastine and Tuvana Pastine

Re-Examining the Relationship Between Export Upgrading and Economic Growth: Is there a Threshold Effect? by Saafi Sami and Nouira Ridha

Policy Section Articles

Making the Worst of a Bad Situation: A Note on Irexit by Ronald B. Davies and Joseph Francois

Optimum Territorial Reforms in Local Government: An Empirical Analysis of Scale Economies in Ireland  by Gerard Turley, John McDonagh,             Stephen McNena and Arkadiusz Grzedzinski

A Contingent Valuation Analysis of the Galway City Museum: Welfare Estimates for Attendance in the Absence of an Admission Fee by               Vincent G. Munley

NTA RECOMMENDS NO FURTHER TENDERING OF DUBLIN BUS SERVICES (updated)

Under this rather stark headline, the National Transport Authority (NTA) issued a press statement on 2nd October last, giving a little under a month for responses to be received. The NTA was proposing, for reasons set out in a consultation paper  and technical report to award a further five-year monopoly to Dublin Bus.

A decision is due from the NTA Board this month (see item 8).

On its establishment, the NTA’s first act was to award an initial five-year monopoly to Dublin Bus (as well as to Bus Eireann and Irish Rail).  Five years later, which was five years ago, a second almost-complete monopoly was awarded, except that 10% of services were to be tendered for competitively. Bus users will see that these services are just now beginning to be operated by Go-Ahead in certain parts of Dublin.

Now, the NTA proposes to tender no more. Some competition-sympathising acquaintances and I have made a submission to the Authority for its consideration. Here is the executive summary; the Association referred to is a new group, the Competition Advocacy Association (of which more later):
Continue reading “NTA RECOMMENDS NO FURTHER TENDERING OF DUBLIN BUS SERVICES (updated)”

Une brève histoire du Brexit

I have just published a short history of Brexit. In the latter chapters, dealing with the Single Market, Brexit, and the subsequent negotiations, a lot of the (mainly official) sources used are freely available online. In order to make it easier for the interested reader to consult these sources, and find out more about the EU and Brexit, I am reproducing the endnotes below.

Cher lecteur, chère lectrice: veuillez trouver ci-dessous, comme promis dans mon livre, les notes de bas de page. J’espère que cela facilitera ceux et celles qui souhaitent approfondir encore davantage leur connaissances sur l’Union européenne, le Brexit et les négociations sur le Brexit. A ce jour les liens fonctionnent tous, mais si vous trouvez des erreurs faites-le moi savoir et je ferai le nécessaire.

Continue reading “Une brève histoire du Brexit”

Longfield Lecture in Economics, UCC – Oct 18th 2018, 6pm

Cork University Business School & Department of Economics

 is pleased to invite you to the

Second Annual Longfield Lecture in Economics


 Professor John Fitzgerald

Adjunct Professor of Economics, UCD and TCD

 The Phoenix and the Ashes – 60 years of Irish economic policy

 Thursday 18 October 2018

6.00pm

Venue: Kane Building, Room G02

 All are welcome


 About the speaker

Professor Fitzgerald is one of Ireland’s foremost economists. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in both TCD and UCD, having previously been a Research Professor in the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. He is a member of the Central Bank of Ireland Commission and he is Chairman of the Irish government’s Climate Change Advisory Council.

 About the lecture

Instead of ushering in a period of economic success, the first 40 years of independence saw a serious underperformance by the Irish economy. Ireland missed the free trade boat after the Second World War and, unlike the rest of Northern Europe from the Urals to Snowdonia, it did not invest in human capital.

Policy began to change in the 1960s. EU membership in 1973, and a steady commitment to developing a modern education system, eventually saw Ireland realise its economic potential.

Bad mistakes in fiscal policy in the late 1970s further delayed Ireland’s convergence to an EU standard of living. However, once the fiscal crisis was dealt with and the EU Single Market came into effect in 1993 Ireland grew very rapidly so that by the mid-2000s Ireland had a standard of living above that of the EU15.

Once again unwise fiscal policy, combined with a massive failure of financial regulation, saw Ireland face a major economic crisis in 2008. However, having got into this mess, policy makers made a very good job of extricating the country from the mire. Nonetheless this process was very painful, leaving a legacy of debt and damage to individual households.

The success of the Irish economy has been built on developing an extremely open economy, a sustained policy of investing in human capital, and a very open labour market. All of this has been underpinned by the multiple advantages conferred by EU membership.

Statistical Codology

Tim Harford, in his column last Saturday in the Financial Times, laments the innumeracy which pervades the popular press and much of the political debate. There are people unable to remember the difference between a million and a billion constantly pontificating on weighty economic issues of all descriptions in both print and broadcast media. My favourite category of statistical codology is the university ranking tables now produced in profusion by various self-appointed scorekeepers, notably the Times Higher Education Supplement which ought to know better. The Irish newspapers reported last week the sad news that Trinity College Dublin had fallen from 117th best university in the whole wide world to a mere 120th according to this venerable source. It has fallen behind the University of York, the shame of it, and has managed to stay just an inch ahead of the University of Oslo (phew!).
Unreported was the even sadder news that the Cork City football team, last season’s Irish champions, are now ranked a humble 160th in the world, down from the heady heights of 157th this time last year and just a corner-kick ahead of Croatia’s Rijeka FC. This vital info can be gleaned from footballdatabase.com, who must be wondering why their number-crunching attracts so little coverage.
There is a simple reason. Football fans know that these rankings mean nothing whatsoever. If anyone really needed to know whether Cork or Rijeka boasts the better team, say if they were drawn against one another in some competition, the matter takes ninety minutes to resolve. How though do you check if Trinity or Oslo has the better university? A ninety-minute showdown between the staff of the two institutions would be quite a spectacle but could turn ugly.
The attraction of the university rankings for journalists is precisely that they are meaningless and accordingly incontrovertible. The winner in the latest league table for world’s best university was none other than the University of Oxford, whose distinguished alumni include Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron and just about all the other folks who have been doing such a spiffing job on Brexit. Which does not mean that Oxford is a poor university. It just means that the concept of university league tables is for the birds. Football league tables (based on the results of actual matches between the teams in each league) are at the upper end of respectable scientific practice by comparison. It looks like Dundalk will relieve Cork of their title as the season draws to a close. But since each team will have played 36 games against the rest this really does suggest that Dundalk have the best team.
However daft the concept and dodgy the statistical methodology, the university tables have their uses. The recent declines in the rankings for the Irish colleges have fuelled demands from their presidents for extra taxpayer cash. A few years back the same tables were showing an advance up the rankings, proof positive, according to the same people, that public spending on universities was delivering the goods and should be increased.
Brexit provides another example of the innumeracy which annoys Tim Harford. The UK’s annual and recurring net contribution to the EU budget has recently been running at about £9 billion per annum, a large number with lots of zeroes. This number, not to be confused with the once-off exit bill, has been ventilated by Brexiteers as, quite properly, a potential ongoing benefit to the Treasury of a full exit. Another figure in circulation is the population of the EU-27 which comes in around 450 million, not quite so large a number but lots of zeroes too. There have been regular assertions that the loss of the UK’s money will cause great damage to the finances of the EU-27: the political editor of the Sunday Express Camilla Tominey ventured that it would ‘bankrupt the European Union’ on a BBC programme, without challenge, a few months back. Nobody at the BBC, it would appear, has thus far bothered to divide the larger of these two big numbers by the smaller. The answer turns out to be £20 per head per annum. Total government revenue in the EU-27 is close to £4,000 billion. The UK’s £9 billion will be missed, but not noticed.
Some people are good at figures but most are not and are lost with very large numbers. Tim Harford’s solution is a call for better statistical training in schools and universities. Even at Oxford this looks a wee bit optimistic. There is however no excuse for the sloppiness about statistical matters in well-resourced media organisations. Here’s another very large number: the BBC gets about £3.5 billion per annum from the license fee, surely enough to engage the services of a statistician, or to buy everyone a pocket calculator. (courtesy the Farmers Journal).

Economic and Social Review, Autumn 2018

The latest edition of the Economic and Social Review (Volume 49, No.3) is now available, containing the following research and policy articles:

Articles

Job Insecurity and Well-being in Rich Democracies by Arne L. Kalleberg

Economic Stress and the Great Recession in Ireland: The Erosion of Social Class Advantage by Christopher T. Whelan, Brian Nolan and Bertrand Maitre

Household Formation and Tenure Choice: Did the Great Irish Housing Bust alter Consumer Behaviour? by David Byrne, David Duffy and John FitzGerald

Policy Articles

An Analysis of Taxation Supports for Private Pension Provision in Ireland by Shane Whelan and Maeve Hally

The Precarious Position of Drug Education Workers in Ireland by Clay Darcy

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.

Negotiations and trust

I am reading Hugo Young’s wonderful This Blessed Plot (is it really possible that it is out of print? How could that possibly be?). He agrees that de Gaulle behaved “monstrously” in vetoing the UK application to join the EEC in 1963, but also makes a good case that Macmillan deserves a share of the blame too. Macmillan’s approach to the negotiations was “conditional and tentative, creeping in a state of high suspicion towards this moment of historic destiny”; the UK made it clear that it wanted to “unpick” the Treaty of Rome in certain ways and wasn’t “necessarily willing to accept the acquis communautaire” — although it was offering nothing in compensation for this. Macmillan went out of his way to emphasize the fact that the Commonwealth and the UK’s relationship with the US were central concerns for him, strengthening de Gaulle’s view that the UK did not really belong in the EEC. Nor did the UK show any great enthusiasm for joining that organisation, in case this might weaken its bargaining hand. All of this merely served to strengthen European suspicions about the UK, and not only in France, and made it much easier for de Gaulle to eventually veto the UK application (just as UK diplomatic ineptness had made it easier for him to veto Plan G some years previously).

The story is not irrelevant today. Imagine that the UK had said, in June or July 2016, that given the closeness of the vote it would seek the closest possible relationship with the EU. Imagine that it had said that avoiding a hard border in Ireland was a major priority, but that it also wanted to avoid the emergence of trade barriers within the UK. Imagine that it had said that, therefore, it would be seeking to remain within a UK-EU customs union, and that it would unilaterally commit to remaining fully aligned with all EU regulations regarding goods. Imagine that it had said that, self-evidently, this would require it to abide by all relevant ECJ rulings, and that it would naturally be willing to make a contribution to the EU budget (but nowhere near as big a one as at present, of course). And imagine that it had said that it would also be willing to sign up to a broader set of guarantees ensuring that it would not try to steal a competitive march on the rest of Europe by undermining labour and regulatory standards more generally.

It might have been quite difficult for the EU to reject such an offer outright, and there might even have been reasons for it to welcome it. The EU could have made it clear that under these circumstances there would not be free access to the EU market for services, and that this might have very negative implications for various manufacturers based in the UK for whom the provision of services to their clients is an important part of their business. It could have added that these difficulties might be surmountable if the UK accepted all four freedoms of the Single Market and paid more into the EU budget. The UK might have objected to these objections. But at least there might have been a basis for negotiation.

It seems as though the UK government may finally be inching towards a situation in which it finds itself proposing something very like the hypothetical offer outlined above. There are still mad aspects to what is supposedly being suggested, notably the proposal that the UK collect customs duties on behalf of a customs union of which it is not a member, and that goods destined for the internal UK market should potentially be allowed to face an entirely different set of tariffs. And yet, the UK is apparently proposing to remain harmonized with EU regulations for goods. We are slowly getting there.

But only very slowly, and only in the face of enormous domestic political resistance. The UK did not proactively propose the solution suggested above – it is being dragged there, kicking and screaming, since it is finally coming to realize that there is no sensible alternative (other than accepting not only a customs union but all four Single Market freedoms, or not leaving the EU at all). Its government has worked, not to build up trust, but to destroy it. Its ministers have made no secret of their disdain for the EU. The UK government has made it clear that it really does want to do free trade deals around the world, and that it really does want the freedom to regulate – or deregulate – as it chooses. Even if Her Majesty’s Government is forced by circumstances to sign up to something that precludes this, we know that this would be only reluctantly: it is quite obvious that the UK does not want this solution. And we also know from experience that its government is capable of signing a document one day, and denying that it means what it says the next.

And what this means is that there is no trust on the other side of the table; nor should there be. And that implies that even if this British government eventually comes to accept that it needs to sign up to full customs union membership, as well as full compliance with EU regulations as regards goods, an offer along those lines may not be acceptable to the EU. Indeed, it seems almost certain that it will not be.

But it is still worth asking what would have happened if clear minds and strategic thinking had prevailed in London in June and July 2016, and such an offer had immediately been proposed without any strings being attached. There would still have been those who, like de Gaulle in 1963, would have wanted to reject it, and they might still have gotten their way. (They might even have been right: I am not implicitly comparing them to de Gaulle, who clearly behaved badly.) But I am willing to bet that it would have been more difficult for them.

 

 

Economic and Social Review, Summer 2018

The latest edition of the Economic and Social Review (Volume 49, No.2) is now available, containing the following research and policy articles:

Articles

The Socioeconomic Determinants of Crime in Ireland from 2003-2012 by Stephen Brosnan

Householder Preferences for the Design of an Energy Efficiency Retrofit Subsidy in Ireland by Matthew Collins, Seraphim Dempsey and John Curtis

Decomposing the Drivers of Changes in Inequality during the Great Recession in Ireland using the Fields Approach by Cathal O’Donoghue, Jason Loughrey and Denisa M. Sologon

Policy papers

The Impact of Free GP Care on GP Utilisation in Ireland by Paul K. Gorecki

Lifting the Lid: the Private Financing of Motorway PPPs in Ireland by Dónal Palcic, Eoin Reeves and Anne Stafford

A gap in current policies for Irish financial stability

In a recent speech, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Sharon Donnery, floated the prospect that the CBI might impose Counter Cyclical Capital Buffers (CCyB) on Irish banks, in order to guard against an unstable credit build-up in the currently strong economic environment. She also used the speech to discuss current conditions in the Irish financial system and review the macroprudential regulation policies of the CBI.

In many ways, Irish macroprudential regulation has been exemplary, but there is a glaring defect. Stanga et alia (2017 and 2018) compare 26 countries regarding mortgage arrears, financial stability and macroprudential policies, and Ireland’s profile is remarkably poor. As Stanga et al. note, controlling mortgage arrears is a key objective of macroprudential policies, and Ireland has very poor performance by this metric.

Ireland’s intractable mortgage arrears problem stems in large part from its defective legal system regarding loan security, with extremely limited lenders’ rights to collateral repossession. This defect in turn limits the reliability of Ireland’s quite restrictive macroprudential policies. As Stanga et al. state in their international overview:

“Better institutions – which improve judicial efficiency and make it easier for banks to enforce their rights – reduce the level of mortgage defaults. We consider several proxies for institutional arrangements and compile an index of institutional quality (IQ). We find a significant and negative relationship between IQ and mortgage arrears, both before and after the onset of the financial crisis – the higher the average quality of institutions, the lower the average mortgage default ratio (Figure 3). Moreover, the effects of macroprudential policies and institutional quality on mortgage defaults are mutually reinforcing. As illustrated in Figure 4, the effect of the MPI [Macro Prudential Index] on defaults becomes stronger in countries with better institutions. This result suggests that the effect of tougher macroprudential policies (that reduce household leverage and ultimately deter defaults) is amplified in an institutional environment conducive to an efficient judicial system with better protection for lenders’ rights and better enforcement capabilities.”

In addition to making banks more cautious, the limited-repossession system in Ireland makes the CBI more stringent in its macroprudential squeeze on credit flows. The prospect of a future spike in mortgage defaults is a key concern for the CBI, along with the high average loss-give-default in such a scenario. Because of this, the CBI is correct to stamp down hard on any signs of substantial credit flow into the domestic housing market.

When it comes to tackling the underlying defect in the Irish system (the too-limited repossession rights of lenders) the CBI has taken the line that this is somebody else’s problem. The CBI harangues the government endlessly on tax and spend policies (which are also not strictly the CBI’s problems) but when it comes to addressing the big defect in the Irish system regarding repossession, the CBI is as quiet as a mouse.

Who is paying for this unusual Irish system of extremely-limited repossession rights? Nondelinquent mortgage borrowers pay for the limited-repossession system since their mortgage interest rate includes the expected cost of default, capturing both a high probability of default and a high loss given default. Households looking for mortgages suffer in two ways: one, the Irish limited-repossession system makes mortgages more difficult to obtain; two, the system has a knock-on effect on housing construction: property development is a high-risk business and with no guarantee of mortgage-ready buyers, developers are extra-cautious.

The net effect of the Irish limited-repossession system on housing prices is indeterminate since there are opposite effects on the demand and supply sides. Cash buyers might benefit or lose on a net basis: they lose from the decrease in house construction (hence higher prices) but benefit from reduced bidding competition against mortgage-based buyers. Existing mortgage holders (other than defaulters) lose, and prospective mortgage holders lose twice over.

At the conclusion of her speech Donnery states:

“While there are uncertainties placing a precise value on the short-term benefits and costs, in the longer-term, increasing the margins of safety in an uncertain world is of benefit to all.”

Consider a young Irish household wishing to buy a family home using mortgage finance. In exchange for a mortgage loan, they might be willing to take a chance that they lose the house in some future scenarios if things turned out badly and they could not pay the loan back. They want a house now and are willing to take a chance on the future. Such a mortgage contract is not legally available to them in Ireland nowadays, since repossession can only be enforced in ridiculously limited circumstances and, due to this legal reality, banks are not allowed to issue mortgage loans unless they are virtually default-risk-free. The young household will have to rent or live with parents, for many years into their future.

The Irish financial system, where there is virtually no chance of receiving a default-risky mortgage and even less chance that such a loan could end with repossession, is not of benefit to all. For many people in many circumstances, risk is good.

Conniffe and Norvartis Prizes

The annual conference of the Irish Economic Association was held on the 10th and 11th of May at the Central Bank. More than 160 people attended the conference.

Alejandra Ramos (TCD) was awarded the Conniffe Prize for best paper by a young economist at the conference. Alejandra received the prize for her paper titled “Household Decision Making with Violence: Implications for Transfer Programs”.

Benjamin Elsner (UCD) and Florin Wozny (IZA) won the Novartis prize for the best paper in Health Economics at the conference. The winning paper was titled ” The human capital cost of radiation: Long run evidence from exposure outside the womb”

Prof Wendy Carlin (UCL) and CORE gave the ESR lecture “The Econ 101 paradigm is broken – what is the alternative?” Her slides from the talk

IEA Dublin ESR Guest Lecture 2018

Prof Olivier Blanchard (Peterson Institute) gave the Edgeworth lecture “Should we reject the natural rate hypothesis” His slides from the talk

Edgeworth Lecture IEA 2018

On the IEA website there are plenty of pictures from the conference

http://www.iea.ie/category/latest-news/

Gerard O’Reilly

Central Bank of Ireland: Financial Stability Notes

The Central Bank of Ireland has today published its first Financial Stability Note. This new series will cover financial stability related topics including those relating to risks and vulnerabilities facing the Irish and European financial system.

 

The Note, ‘Macroprudential Measures and Irish Mortgage Lending: An Overview of 2017’, by Christina Kinghan, Paul Lyons and Elena Mazza, provides an overview of new residential mortgage lending in Ireland in 2017. It describes key loan and borrower characteristics of loans subject to the Central Bank’s Mortgage Measures along with a comparison to lending in 2016. The Note also provides details on loans with an allowance to exceed the loan-to-value (LTV) and loan-to-income (LTI) limits, as permitted under the Measures. 35, 472 new loans are examined, with a value of €7.4 billion.

 

The key findings of today’s Financial Stability Note are:

 

  • First-time-buyers (FTBs) in 2017 had an average LTV of 79.8% and an average LTI of 3 times gross income. This represents a marginal increase on the average LTV and LTI ratios reported in 2016. FTBs also had a larger loan size, property value and income compared to FTBs one year earlier (see Table 4).
  • The average loan size and property value of second and subsequent buyers (SSBs) also increased compared to 2016. The average LTV for SSBs in 2017 was 67.6% and the average LTI was 2.6 times gross income (see Table 5).
  • A higher proportion of loans for both FTBs and SSBs were originated on a fixed interest rate compared with one year earlier.
  • 17% of the aggregate value of SSB lending exceeded the SSB LTV limit.
  • 18% of new primary dwelling home (PDH) lending exceeded the 3.5 LTI cap. This corresponds to 25% of the value of FTB lending and 10% of the value of SSB lending. A larger share of LTI allowances was accounted for by FTBs (74%) relative to SSBs (26%).
  • Allowances to exceed the LTI and LTV caps were allocated to borrowers in all four quarters of 2017 (see Table 7).

Irish Postgraduate and Early Career Economics Workshop

See below for the programme for the return of the Irish postgraduate and early career economics workshop (previously “ISNE conference”). All are welcome to attend. Thanks to School of Economics in UCD for providing financial support.

Irish Postgraduate Early Career Economics Conference

UCD Geary Institute

Friday May 4th

9am to 915am: Opening Remarks: Professor Liam Delaney (UCD), Dr. Lisa Ryan (UCD), Dr. Ben Elsner (UCD), Dr. Michelle Queally

Session 1a: 915am to 1045am Session 1b: 915am to 1045am
Sanghamatira Mukrhrejee (UCD) “Factors influencing early electric vehicle adoption in Ireland”. Aine Doran (QUB) “Population Dynamics in 19th century Ireland”.
Bryan Coyne (TCD) “The impact of a subsidised weatherisation scheme on Irish domestic energy consumption”. Gayana Vardanyan (TCD) “The long-run impact of historical shocks on the decision to migrate: evidence from the Irish Famine”.
Martin Murphy (ESRI) “Predicting farm’s non-compliance with regulations on emissions of nitrates”. Man Wing (Lorraine) Wong (UCD) “The effect of language proximity on the labour market outcomes of the asylum population in Switzerland”.
10.45am  to 11am Coffee
Session 2a: 11am to 1230pm Session 2b: 11am to 1230pm
Florian Gerth (CBOI) “Entry and Exit Dynamics of UK firms in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis”.

Patrick McHale, BA  (NUIG) & Thomas Plunkett, B.Pharm (NUIG) “Healthy Eating Meal Plan Preferences Amongst a University Population: A DCE Approach”

Tammana Adhikari (UCD) “Deals versus Rules?”. Kenneth Devine (UCD) “Mortgage Choice and Expectations”.
David Jordan (QUB) “Doomed to decline?: Interwar industrial performance and policy in Northern Ireland”. Ivan Petrov (UCD) “Information Asymmetry, Split Incentives, and Energy Efficiency in the Residential Rental Market”.
1245pm to 130pm Lunch
Session 3a: 130pm to 3pm Session 3b: 130pm to 3pm
Dora Tuda (TCD) “Does higher unemployment increase income inequality: evidence from European labour markets using a discrete choice experiment”. Iordanis Parikoglou (UCD/Teagasc). “The impact of innovation on farm level productivity: evidence from the Irish dairy sector”.
TBC Stefano Ceolotto (TCD). “The impact of moral licensing on pro-environmental behaviours”.
Philip Carthy (ESRI) “Is employment growth affected by the introduction of broadband services?: Evidence from Ireland”. Linda Mastrandrea (UCD) “Linking retail pricing policy with the decarbonisation of the electricity sector”.
Coffee 3pm to 315pm
Session 4a: 315pm to 445pm Session 4b: 3pm to 445pm
Deirdre Coy (UCD) “Health formation in an RCT Early Childhood Visiting Programme”. Eoin Corrigan (UCD) “Capricious Redistribution: The Scale and Impacts of the Local Authority Rent Subsidy”.
Anne Devlin (QUB) “Why is work-limiting disability in Northern Ireland so high?”. Stephen Byrne (CBOI) “Solving the wage puzzle: Does the ‘nonemployment rate’ explain wage dynamics?”.

 

 

 

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.

 

Bringing the Household Back in: Comparative Capitalism and the Politics of Housing Markets

Some readers might be interested in this new working paper at UCD’s Geary Institute. http://www.ucd.ie/geary/static/publications/workingpapers/gearywp201807.pdf

The core argument is that to understand heterogeneity in house price inflation, it is vital to understand the interactive dynamics in two markets that determine homeownership: First, the labor market, which shapes households’ incomes and; second, the market for mortgages, which shape households’ access to credit financial resources.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 12.29.04

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.

IEA 2018 – Preliminary Programme

IEA 2018. May 10 and 11 at the Central Bank’s headquarters in North Wall Quay. Please note Early Bird registration is open until April 25.

DAY 1: THURDSAY MAY 10TH 2018

Registration: 8:30-9:00

Session 1: 9:00 to 10:30

1A          Public Economics (1)

·        Respect your elders: evidence from Ireland’s R&D tax credit reform (Rory Malone, UL)
·        Paying over the odds at the end of the fiscal year: Evidence from Ukraine (Margaryta Klymak, TCD)
·        The Direct and Spillover Effects of Taxation: Evidence from a Property Tax Break for First-Time Buyers (Enda Hargaden, Univ of Tennessee)
·        Follow the Leader? The Interaction between Public and Private Sector Wage Growth in the UK (Arno Hantzsche, NIESR)

 

1B          Financial Economics (1)

·        Positive Liquidity Spillovers from Sovereign Bond-Backed Securities (Peter Dunne, CBI)
·        A Multi-Century Perspective on Return Predictability and Price Bubbles (Don Bredin, UCD)
·        Regulatory Penalties and Reputational Risk: Evidence from Systematically Important Financial Institutions (Sharadha V Tilley, DIT)

·        Resolving a Non-Performing Loan crisis: the ongoing case of the Irish mortgage market (Fergal McCann, CBI)

 

1C          Economics of Health and Education

·        The Human Capital Cost of Radiation: Long-Term Evidence from outside the Womb (Benjamin Elsner, UCD)
·        School Tracking and Mental Health (Mika Haapanen, Univ of Jyväskylä)
·        Household Decision Making with Violence: Implications for Transfer Programs (Alejandra Ramos, TCD)
·        Heterogeneity in Early Life Investments: A Longitudinal Analysis of Children’s Time Use (Slawa Rokicki, UCD)

 

Coffee: 10:30 to 11:00

Session 2: 11:00 to 12:30

2A          Economic History (1)

·        Rise and Fall in the Third Reich: Social Mobility and Nazi Membership (Alan de Bromhead, QUB)
·        The Economic Geography of Late Industrialisation: Local Finance and the Cost of Distance in Imperial Russia (Marvin Suesse, TCD)
·        Perfect Mechanics: Artisan Skills and the Origins of the Industrial Revolution. (Morgan Kelly, UCD)
·        Economic Policy and the Common Good (Rowena Pecchenino, NUIM)

 

2B          Applied Micro (1)

·        Determinants of households’ switching demand and execution (Shane Byrne, CBI)
·        The Take-Up of Medical and GP Visit Cards in Ireland (Claire Keane, ESRI)
·        Dodging the deadweight death-spiral: Efficiency and equity implications of UK electricity tariff reform (Niall Farrell, Univ of Oxford)
·        The education, work and fertility decisions of women (Barra Roantree, IFS)

 

2C          Monetary Policy and Asset Pricing

·        Monetary Policy Shocks and Bank Lending: Evidence from the euro area and United States (David Byrne, CBI)
·        The political economy of reforms in central bank design: evidence from a new dataset (Davide Romelli, TCD)
·        Commodity pricing: Evidence from Rational and Behavioural Models (Don Bredin, UCD)

 

Lunch: 12:30 to 13:30

Session 3: 13:30-15:00

3A          Economic History (2)

·        Patent Costs and the Value of Invention: Explaining Patenting Behaviour between England, Ireland and Scotland, 1617-1852 (Stephen Billington, QUB)
·        The Impact of the Great Irish Famine on Irish Mass Migration to the USA at the turn of the twentieth century. (Gayane Vardanyan, TCD)
·        The impact of depression and deglobalization on agricultural outcomes: Insights from interwar Ireland (Tara Mitchell, TCD)
·        Poverty and Population in Pre-Famine Ireland (Alan Fernihough, QUB)

 

3B          Multinational Firms

·        America First? A US-centric view of global capital flows (Martin Schmitz, ECB)
·        Corporate Taxation and the Location Choice of Foreign Direct Investment in the EU Countries (Iulia Siedschlag, ESRI)
·        U.S. corporate income tax cuts: Spillovers to the Irish economy (Daragh Clancy, ESM)
·        The contribution of foreign companies to the business economy and corporate income tax base in Ireland (Seamus Coffey, UCC)

 

3C          Financial Economics (2)

·        Clearinghouse-Five: Determinants of voluntary clearing in European derivatives markets (Pawel Fiedor, CBI)
·        The Implications of Tail Dependency for Counterparty Credit Risk Pricing (Juan Carlos Arismendi Zambrano, NUIM)
·        Money Market Funds and Unconventional Monetary Policy (Jacopo Sorbo, CBI)
·        What ‘special purposes’ explain cross-border debt funding by banks? Evidence from Ireland (Eduardo Maqui, ECB)

 

Coffee: 15:00-15:30

Session 4: 15:30-16:45

4A          Macroeconomics of the Irish economy

·        Disentangling Credit Shocks in the Irish Mortgage Market (Michael O’Grady, CBI)
·        Inside the “Upside Down”: Estimating Ireland’s Output Gap (Eddie Casey, IFAC)
·        Modelling External Shocks in a Small Open Economy: The Case of Ireland (Graeme Walsh, CBI)

 

4B          Labour Economics (1)

·        Employment and Hours Impacts of the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage in Northern Ireland (Duncan McVicar, QUB)
·        Estimating the Effect of an Increase in the Minimum Wage on Hours Worked and Employment in Ireland (Paul Redmond, ESRI)
·        Taxpayer Responsiveness and Statutory Incidence: Evidence from Irish Social Security Notches (Enda Hargaden, Univ of Tennessee)

 

4C          Measurement & Methods

·        Macro and Micro Estimates of Irish Household Wealth (Mary Cussen, CBI)
·        New Characteristics and Hedonic Price Index Numbers (Peter Neary, Univ of Oxford)
·        Patterns of Firm Level Productivity in Ireland (Luke Rehill, DoF)

 

17:00-19:00

Economic and Social Review Guest Lecture: Professor Wendy Carlin (University College London and the CORE Project)

19:30 Dinner at ELY IFSC, CHQ Building
DAY TWO: FRIDAY MAY 11TH

Session 5: 9:00-10:30

5A          Macroeconomic Modeling

·        Shadow Bank run: The Story of a Recession (Hamed Ghiaie, Universite de Cergy-Pontoise)
·        Real exchange rate dynamics in New-Keynesian models – The Balassa-Samuelson mechanism revisited (Maren Brede, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
·        Factor Misallocation and Adjustment Costs: Evidence from Italy (Robert Goodhead, CBI)
·        The Effect of Rents on Wages when Labour is Mobile Across Regions (Matija Lozej, CBI)

 

5B          Banking

·        EU banks and profit shifting: preliminary evidence from country-by-country reporting (Wildmer Daniel Gregori, EC)
·        Cross-border banking in the EU since the crisis: what is driving the great retrenchment? (Lorenz Emter, CBI)
·        Banking crises and investments in innovation (Oana Peia, UCD)
·        Pockets of risk in European housing markets: then and now (Jane Kelly, CBI)

 

5C          Agriculture & natural resources

·        Sea bass angling in Ireland: a structural equation model of catch and effort (Gianluca Grilli, ESRI)
·        Understanding Farmer’s Valuation of Agricultural Insurance: Evidence from Viet Nam (Anuj Singh, TCD)
·        Accounting for technology heterogeneities and policy change in farm level efficiency analysis: an application to the Irish beef sector (Maria Martinez Cillero, ESRI)
·        The impact of residential ‘weatherisation’ schemes on the domestic energy consumption of Irish households (Bryan Coyne, TCD)

 

Coffee: 10:30-11:00

Session 6: 11:00 – 12:30

6A          International Trade

·        The Heterogeneous Impact of Brexit: Early Indications from the FTSE (Ron Davies, UCD)
·        Research Dissemination, Distance and Borders (Lukas Kuld, TU Dortmund)
·        What’s Another Day? The Impact of Non-Tariff Barriers on Trade (Jonathan Rice, Central Bank)
·        Imported Intermediate Goods and Incomplete Exchange Rate Pass-Through into Export Prices (Alexander Firanchuk, TCD)

 

6B          Macroprudential Policy

·        An Early Warning System for Systemic Banking Crises – A Robust Model Specification (Michael Wosser, CBI)
·        The effectiveness of macroprudential policies in the euro area (Eóin Flaherty, CSO)
·        Macroprudential Policy, Uncertainty and Household Savings Behaviour (Conor O’Toole, ESRI)
·        Credit Booms, Macroprudential Policy and Financial Crises (Peter Karlström, Univ of Bologna)

 

6C          Political Economy & Institutions

·        Ebola, Resistance and State Legitimacy (Matthias Flueckiger, QUB)
·        Does Corruption Ease the Burden of Regulation? National and Subnational Evidence (Robert Gillanders, DCU)
·        Can labour market institutions mitigate the China Syndrome? Evidence from regional labour markets in Western Europe (Jan-Luca Hennig, TCD)
·        Refugees, migrants and the right-wing vote share: evidence from Sweden (Rachel Slaymaker, ESRI)

 

Lunch: 12:30-13:30

Session 7: 13:30-15:00

7A          Econometrics and Forecasting

·        Forecasting with FAVAR: Macroeconomic versus Financial Factors (Alessia Paccagnini, UCD)
·        Forecasting Irish Inflation after the crisis: Evaluating Multiple Bayesian Approaches (Shayan Zakipour-Saber, CBI)
·        Model Averaging in a Multiplicative Heteroscedastic Model (Alan Wan, City Univ of Hong Kong)
·        Phillips curves in the euro area (Laura Moretti, ECB)

 

7B          Macro-finance

·        Financial Crises, Macroeconomic Shocks, and the Government Balance Sheet: A Panel Analysis (Matteo Ruzzante, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
·        Is Macroeconomic Uncertainty or Policy Uncertainty Priced in UK Stock Returns? (Jun Gao, UCC)
·        Eurobonds: A Quantitative Analysis of Joint-Liability Debt (Vasileios Tsiropoulos, CBI)
·        Constructing A Financial Conditions Index for the United Kingdom: A Comparative Analysis (Sheng Zhu, UCC)

 

7C          Applied Micro (2)

·        Crime Highways: the Effect of Motorway Expansion on Burglary Rates (Kerri Agnew, TCD)
·        Consumer Switching in European Energy Markets: A Comparative Assessment (Jason Harold, ESRI)
·        Expectations of future care needs and wealth trajectories in retirement (Rowena Crawford, IFS)
·        Expected Child Mortality, Fertility Decisions, and the Demographic Dividend in Low and Middle Income Countries (Mark McGovern, QUB)

 

Coffee: 15:00-15:30

 

15:30-17:15

Edgeworth Lecture: Professor Olivier Blanchard (MIT and Peterson Institute for International Economics)

 

17.30

Irish Economic Assocation AGM

 

Post Doctoral Researcher in Innovation Studies and Policy

May I draw your attention to the following post:Post Doctoral Researcher in Innovation Studies and Policy (funding for this position is expected to continue for 2 years) based at the University of Limerick, Ireland as part of a Science Foundation Ireland funded project under its Science Policy Research Programme.

 Led by Professor Helena Lenihan at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, this project on evaluating the impact of science and innovation policies on the economy and society comprises a team of international and national experts (including collaborators from Warwick Business School and the Enterprise Research Centre, ZEW in Germany, KU Leuven and Queen’s University, Belfast) and policymakers. 

 Salary Scale: €36,854-€42,603 per annum. 

 Deadline for Application: Friday 20th April 2018

A full description of the advertised position and application procedure is available here 

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).

Economic and Social Review, Spring 2018

The latest edition of the Economic and Social Review is  now available (Vol 49, No 1, Spring 2018) containing the following articles:

The Cyclicality of Irish Fiscal Policy Ex-Ante and Ex-Post by David Cronin and Kieran McQuinn

The Base of Party Political Support in Ireland: A New Approach by David Madden

How do the Foreign-Born Rate Host Country Health Systems? Evidence from Ireland by Simone M. Schneider and Camilla Devitt

 

Policy Section Articles

Identifying Rent Pressures in Your Neighbourhood: A New Model of Irish Regional Rent Indicators by Martina Lawless, Kieran McQuinn and John Walsh

Universal GP Care in Ireland: Potential Cost Implications by Sheelah Connolly, Anne Nolan, Brendan Walsh, Maev-Ann Wren

State/Industry Medicine Pricing Agreements, Cost Savings and Counterfactuals: the Case of Ireland by Paul K. Gorecki

Final Reminer: IEA Deadline Feb 11th

The 32nd Annual Irish Economic Association Conference will be held at the Central Bank of Ireland, New Wapping Street, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1 on Thursday May 10th and Friday May 11th, 2018. Gerard O’Reilly (Central Bank of Ireland) is the local organiser (gerard.oreilly@centralbank.ie).

The ESR guest lecture will be given by Professor Wendy Carlin (University College London and the CORE project) and the Edgeworth Lecture by Professor Olivier Blanchard (MIT and PIIE).

The Association invites submissions of papers to be considered for the conference programme. Papers may be on any area in Economics, Finance and Econometrics.

The deadline for submitted articles is the 11thof February 2018 and submissions can be made through this site.

Four Cheers for Conor Skehan

On Wednesday, Conor Skehan, outgoing head of the Government’s Housing Agency, was grilled by the Oireachtas Housing Committee for the mortal sin of noticing things and speaking honestly about them. Mr. Skehan claimed that some individuals in Ireland were gaming the public housing system, in order to become eligible for public housing ahead of others. Members of the Committee, devout in their observance of the Holy Laws of political correctness,  castigated Mr. Skehan for his public remarks and the evidence he presented to justify them. They noted that it is not possible that a housing-eligible person could game the system – as PC dogma clearly states, lower income individuals are gifted with Immaculate Conception (born without sin) and can do no wrong. So the evidence that Mr. Skehan presented had to be false, and his presentation of it before the committee was proof of his fall from a PC state of grace.

On the plus side, there was at least one honest person in the Oireachtas on Wednesday.

Central Bank SME Market Report 2017 H2

The Bank’s SME Market Report for the second half of 2017 was released this week. The report can be found here.

Key results from the report include:

  • Annual gross new lending to non-financial, non-real estate SMEs in Q3 2017 is 24 per cent higher than a year ago.
  • The SME lending market has become more concentrated in the last six months, with fewer banks holding an ever larger market share.

  • The share of SMEs in Ireland reporting they did not apply for bank loans because of sufficient internal funding was 50.4 per cent in September 2017.

  • SME loan rejection rates in Ireland have increased to 13.9 per cent in September 2017 from 8.2 per cent in March 2017.

  • Interest rates for SME loans stood at 5 per cent in July 2017, high in a European context.
  • When scaled relative to domestic demand, new loan issuance to SMEs in Ireland is very low compared to European comparator economies.
  • The share of SMEs transitioning into default between the period December 2016 and June 2017 is 2.4 per cent. The highest transition rates reported in the Wholesale/Retail sector (2.9 per cent) and the South-east (3.4 per cent).

We have published the data behind each chart for the first time. The spreadsheet can be found here.

Call for Papers: Fintech and financial risk management: evolution or revolution?

A joint academic-practitioner conference on the theme Fintech and financial risk management: evolution or revolution? will be held in at the Institute of Bankers, Dublin, Ireland on Monday September 10th, 2018. The conference is organized by the Valuation and Risk Cluster (VAR), the Department of Economics, Finance & Accounting at Maynooth University, the Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin, and the Central Bank of Ireland.

New financial technologies are producing widespread changes to financial markets and financial systems. The effects of the fintech revolution on risk measurement, analysis and control are not yet clear. How does fintech change the risk profile of financial markets? Can existing risk management systems cope with the new environment? What changes are required to existing financial risk management methods and systems? Will innovative applications of fintech improve risk measurement and management

Potential topics include:

• Flash crashes

• Risk measurement and control of black-box trading algorithms

• The impact of high speed trading on dynamic rebalancing and hedging

• Natural Language Processing (NLP)-based artificial intelligence and its trading impact

• High speed trading networks and systemic risk

• Information and noise cascading in networks

• Stability and liquidity of blockchain protocols

• Portfolio risk management with automated advisor systems

• Credit risk in fintech lending systems

• Fintech’s impact on the business models of existing financial institutions

• Applications of machine learning in risk management systems

Please send papers or detailed proposals by May 31st, 2018 at the latest to Na.Li@ucd.ie; all papers must be submitted electronically in adobe pdf format. There will be both main conference sessions and poster sessions. The academic coordinators for the conference are Gregory Connor, John Cotter and Trevor Fitzpatrick, who can be contacted at Gregory.connor@mu.ie,  John.cotter@ucd.ie,  and Trevor.Fitzpatrick@centralbank.ie. The administrative manager for the conference is Na Li who can be contacted at Na.Li@ucd.ie. There are no submission fees or attendance fees for the conference. We are grateful to the Science Foundation of Ireland and the Irish Institute of Bankers for their generous support of this conference. The Valuation and Risk Cluster (VAR) is a collaboration between University College Dublin, Maynooth University, Dublin City University and industry partners, with support from the Science Foundation of Ireland.

New SSISI journal (170th!) published

The proceedings of the 170th session of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland can now be accessed online. Links to the articles are listed below. The hard copy of the publication will be available from Spring 2018.

·         Dublin House Prices: A History of Booms and Busts from 1708-1949

Deeter, Karl; Quinn, Frank; Duffy, David (SSISI, 2017)

·         Towards an Irish Recorded Crime Index

Linehan, Timothy (SSISI, 2017)

·         Barrington Lecture – Seventy Years of Personal Disposable Income and Consumption in Ireland

Stuart, Rebecca (SSISI, 2017)

·         The Irish Single-Currency Debate of the 1990s in Retrospect

Barry, Frank (SSISI, 2017)

·         Income-Tested Health Entitlements: Microsimulation Modelling Using SILC

Callan, T.; Colgan, B.; Keane, C.; Logue, C.; Walsh, J.R.(SSISI, 2017)

·         Symposium – Globalisation, Inequality and Populism

Nolan, Brian (SSISI, 2017)

·         Symposium – Who is the Populist Irish Voter?

Reidy, Theresa; Suiter, Jane (SSISI, 2017)

·         Symposium – Globalisation, Inequality and Populism

Layte, Richard; Landy, David (SSISI, 2017)

·         The Recovery in the Public Finances in Ireland following the Financial Crisis

Smyth, Diarmaid (SSISI, 2017)

·         Using Administrative Data to Change Perception about Caregiving and Improve the Evidence Base Related to Volunteering

O’Reilly, Dermot; Rosato, Michael (SSISI, 2017)

·         Memoriam: Thomas Kenneth Whitaker

·         Proceedings of the Statistical and Social Inquiry of Ireland One Hundred and Seventieth Session: 2016/2017

 

Local Property Tax: Change for better or worse?

Local Property Tax: Change for better or worse?

 

Introduction.

Local Property Tax (LPT) was introduced in 2013 using valuations for May of that year as a base. The tax is due for re-basing on 2019 property values, and this is likely to produce a mixture of political opportunism and panic which may well lead to “reforms” which fundamentally undermine the tax.

 

Residential property taxation is part of the local or municipal tax base in most countries[1]. The traditional Irish property tax (domestic rates) was so archaic and badly-designed that it easily fell prey to political opportunism and was abolished in 1977. Rates on Commercial and Industrial property remain, and are probably in need of reform, but that is an issue for another day.

 

The malaise of property taxation is closely linked to the decay of local government in Ireland. Local Authorities have very little truly independent taxing power; the residential LPT operates under national rules and collection is done by a central government agency – the Revenue Commissioners. Local Authorities have lost many of their responsibilities: for water services, many road services, garbage collection, and so forth. Such powers that they have are often tightly circumscribed by central government directives and rules. No wonder local politicians, who have so little real power over local policy issues get involved in the politics of Palestine, Catalonia or Myanmar. Worthy causes maybe, but not local ones.

 

If we are to have local government which actually works and which is worthwhile and has some real policy discretion, then it will have to have some degree effective control over its tax revenues. This is essential: local government which is almost totally dependent on central government for its revenue, will forever be rattling the begging bowl and will never have to ask how to pay for the local public goods which citizens want. Just pass the buck to central government.

 

Local Government is often quite rightly regarded as inefficient and ineffective. The LPT provides a good example: the local authorities’ collection of the LPT’s predecessor (the Household Charge) resulted in much lower compliance than that subsequently achieved by Revenue. Local Authorities have also been ineffective in collecting water charges for commercial users, and have had chronic problems with rent and mortgage arrears. The latter problems are undoubtedly explained in part by social factors, but overall the operational efficiency of local authorities has not been impressive, which may explain why they have been stripped of so many functions.

 

Putting this right will not be easy. The culture of local politics has been degraded by its unhealthy relationship with the centre. Local councillors become adept at rattling the begging bowl. Given that getting elected to a local council is the main route to an eventual career in national politics, this is the worst possible apprenticeship for national politicians, who often tend to have the same attitude to financing national public expenditure: a total disconnect between spending money on something and having to solve the problem of how to pay for it.

 

A report[2] by Dr Don Thornhill prepared as part of the 2016 Budget documentation contains many proposals aimed at preventing the tax from being degraded in various respects and also at improving its structure. Dr Thornhill estimated that substituting 2016 for 2013 property valuations would produce a revenue increase of about 29%, so we could say that making a “big bang” change and using 2019 valuations would probably produce an increase in LPT charges of at least 50%. I do not intend to look at details of yield estimates or how this might vary from area to area. For the purposes of a very general discussion I will take a 50% increase as a reasonable first approximation if there were to be a “big bang” in 2019. Clearly this sort of increase is what scares politicians to death, and scared politicians are liable to propose measures which are both unfair and inefficient.

 

Looking at Don Thornhill’s proposals for changes to LPT, I quickly became aware of the similarities between his ideas and mine. Maybe this is not surprising: familiarity with the same fundamental concepts in public finance and the political economy of taxation might be expected to lead to a convergence of views. Don Thornhill’s proposals are worked out in much greater detail than anything I attempt to outline here, but getting the big picture right seems to me to be an essential first step.

 

Some proposals:

(i) Have a full property revaluation in 2019. The impact of this can be drastically reduced, but allowing valuations to become hopelessly out of date runs the danger of LPT valuations becoming like the old rateable valuations: works of fiction bearing no relation to reality. Ultimately doing nothing would undermine the LPT completely (something that some politicians[3] want, of course).

(ii) Avoid a “revaluation shock”by adjusting the tax rates (at present 0.18% up to €1m and 0.25% for that part of values in excess of €1m) so that the yield increase is relatively modest (say 10%). On a simple back-of-the envelope calculation, rates of 0.12% and 0.20% with a threshold of €1.5m might come close to achieving this.

(iii) At present, some of the LPT revenues arising in a local authority area are redistributed from high to low income areas via a centrally-administered fund. This has the effect of weakening the net local revenue effect of any decision the local authority makes (such as the discount or premium to apply in any year), Effectively any increase in revenue may be diluted by having to pay some into a central fund. The solution (also recommended by Don Thornhill) is to leave local authorities with 100% of the LPT revenues from their area and thus 100% of the revenue consequences of any decisions they take. This implies a separate central government grant mechanism to give local authorities an acceptable degree of resource equalisation, It is essential however that this is based on relevant structural factors such as demography, population density, estimates of local income levels etc.

(iv) Consider adjusting the amount of discretion available to a local authority to something in excess of the present ” 15%. This might slowly educate local authorities and councillors in exercising greater fiscal responsibilities[4].

(v) As Don Thornhill recommends, re-title the tax as a Local Council Tax. A minor point maybe, but in an era of spin getting the title right and emphasising the responsibilities of the local council would be worthwhile.

 

Mistakes to avoid.

In any discussion of reform it is important to avoid making things worse, especially as some really bad ideas have been aired.

 

  • Earlier this month (Jan 15th, 2018) the Sunday Times in an editorial seemed to favour the idea of basing the LPT on house size[5]. Why should someone in 4-bedroom semi in Dublin 4 pay several times what a person in a similar house in Leitrim or Roscommon pays? Consider a household with a total income of, say, €60.000. A four-bedroom house in Dublin 4 will probably cost over €800,000 and will be way beyond the what is affordable to buy for most €60,000 income households. The house of similar size in Leitrim or Roscommon might be bought for €200,000 to €300,000, and be within the budget and borrowing power of a €60,000 income household. So for this reason alone (there are others), it is a fair bet that the incomes of people living in similar-sized houses will be higher in areas with higher property values. Sure, high property values may imply high mortgage debt, but in the long term when retirement beckons the Dublin 4 household will have much better options for downsizing and equity-release than the someone with an asset worth less than €300,000. High value areas have in general residents with higher income and wealth.

 

  • Landlords would no doubt argue that it is inequitable that their tenants do not have to pay LPT whereas owner-occupiers do. (They really mean that it is unfair that they have to pay, but leave that aside). This raises interesting questions about the incidence of LPT. One might argue that in the long-term rentals have to cover the full economic cost to landlords, and that otherwise they will exit the market. In that case (barring distortions such as rent controls) the long-run incidence of LPT would be on tenants. However in the current state of the housing market, landlords as owners of a relatively fixed-supply of properties are likely to be making economic rents[6] and the incidence of the tax would be on them. Also in the long run we would expect LPT to capitalised into (slightly lower) house valuations so its incidence would be on property owners in general, whether owner-occupiers or landlords[7]. Overall I see little merit in changing the current arrangement for landlords – and fortunately unlike other not-so-good ideas there is little political momentum behind such a proposal.

 

Some more general conclusions.

  • There is a real need to reform local government and to gradually give it more real powers. This is now a well-worn cliche, but one seldom hears any substantive discussion of the issues involved.
  • I say gradually give local authorities more powers because the present culture of local politics does not lend itself to fiscally responsible behaviour, so local councillors face a steep learning curve. Fiscal responsibility is an essential part of political and policy responsibility. Giving local authorities power without (fiscal) responsibility reminds me of Stanley Baldwin’s remark on the subject. A properly adjusted LPT is an obvious route to greater local fiscal responsibility.
  • We should not get too hung up on questions of progressivity or fairness. Overall the LPT may not be quite as progressive[8] as Don Thornhill suggests, but it only accounts for about 1% of all tax revenues and there are other larger taxes in the system which are decidedly more regressive. In any event it is the overall progressivity of the combined tax and benefit system which really matters and in this respect Ireland scores very highly.
  • It has been argued that higher LPT could be traded off against lower income tax rates. While this is in principle a valid proposition, especially as property taxes are held to be less distortionary, in practice it is a difficult argument to sustain. A doubling of LPT revenues would fund a very small cut in Income Tax or USC rates. LPT reform should be done on its own merits as a mainly a local authority issue. While a relatively minor tax in relation to the total national tax take, LPT could and should be central to the operation of effective and responsible local government.

 

[1] The obvious reason being that taxation specific to a local area which is part of a single national economy is best based on relatively immobile assets.

[2] Review of the Local Property Tax (LPT): http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2016/Documents/Review_of_Local_Property_Tax_pub.pdf

 

[3] Somewhat bizarrely, politicians on the extreme left.

[4] Don Thornhill advocates authorities being able to vary the rate of tax and perhaps the size of the bands. This seems to me an un-necessary complication. One can achieve much the same effect on tax bills by using the ” 15% instrument. Keep it simple should be the watchword.

[5] Quite predictably, that reservoir of bad economic ideas (the Irish Times letters page) recently published a plea for a floor area-based tax. Also quite predictably, it was from that well-known deprived area, Dublin 6.

[6] i.e. rents in the classic economic definition considered as a surplus over and above the supply price.

[7] The question of incidence can get quite complicated. If I own a house I have to pay LPT whether I occupy it or rent it out. In that case how does it enter into my decision? If I sell it, and if LPT is capitalised into the price, how does that effect my decision?

[8] While LPT may take absolutely more money from those with higher incomes, it does not follow that it takes a greater proportion of income from those with higher incomes, which is the classical definition of the concept of progressivity.