Nevin Institute: Quarterly Reports

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September 24th, 2014

The latest reports from the Nevin Institute are available here.

Join the dots

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September 23rd, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Big Read: How Ireland’s Nama moved centre stage

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September 22nd, 2014

The FT continues its focus on Ireland with his long article by Vincent Boland – here.

Conference: Financing SMEs in Economic Recovery

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September 22nd, 2014

Conference: Financing SMEs in Economic Recovery
ESRI, 26/09/2014, 8.30am -1pm

The ESRI will hold a half-day conference focusing on the bank and non-bank financing environment of SMEs in economic recovery. The research presented aims to contribute to a policy environment that facilitates a smooth recovery in the SME sector. Programme outline below:

PROGRAMME

08.30 Registration and Coffee
09.00 Welcome: Professor Frances Ruane, Director, ESRI
09.05 Opening Address: Simon Harris, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance

SESSION 1
Evidence on SME Financing: Ireland in a European Perspective
Chair: Fergal McCann, Central Bank of Ireland

09.30 Which Firms Apply for Credit in the Euro Area?
Annalisa Ferrando, European Central Bank

10.00 SME Financing Landscape in Ireland: A Comparative Perspective
Conor O’Toole, Economic and Social Research Institute

10.30 Tea/Coffee

SESSION 2
Policy Objectives and Supports for Funding SMEs
Chair: Niall O’Donnellan, Enterprise Ireland

11.00 SME Default in Ireland
Tara McIndoe-Calder, Central Bank Ireland

11.30 Policy Options for SME Financing in Ireland
Martina Lawless, Economic and Social Research Institute

SESSION 3

12.00 Roundtable discussion
Chair: John Hogan, Department of Finance

Participants: Loretta O’Sullivan (BoI), Patricia Callan (Small Firms Association), John O’Sullivan (ACT Venture Capital ), Nick Ashmore (SBCI), Garrett Murray (Enterprise Ireland )

Please register at:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SMECONFERENCE

Lessons from Ireland?

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September 21st, 2014

The recent data releases have prompted various comments about what might be learned from the Irish recovery: see FT comment here;   and the letter from Hugh McDermott here.

Avner Offer on World War 1

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September 20th, 2014

The latest in the VoxEu series of articles on the economics of World War I is written by Avner Offer, whose classic book on the subject I can thoroughly recommend. The article is available here.

Housing the Homeless

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September 19th, 2014

James Surowiecki has an interesting piece on housing the homeless here.

Economist Vacancy: Social Justice Ireland

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September 18th, 2014

Details here.

Quarterly National Accounts

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September 18th, 2014

The Q2 National Accounts and Balance of Payments updates have been published by the CSO.

The quarterly changes will attract plenty of attention but little can be judged from them given the volatility of the series, the possibility of revisions and the impact of the MNC and IFSC sectors.

Quarterly Changes: GDP +1.5%; GNP +0.6%

More significantly perhaps are the year-on-year changes for the first six months of the year. 

  • Real GDP (2012 prices)
  • H1 2013: €85,163m
  • H1 2014: €90,069m

That is an annual increase of 5.8%.  For GNP the equivalent change is +6.0%. Wow!

Value added increased in all sectors when compared with H1 2013: (% = real annual growth, € = amount in 2012 prices)

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: +11.9% to €2.45bn
  • Industry: +0.7% to €22.52bn
    • with Building and Construction: +8.3% to €1.51bn
  • Distribution, Transport, Communications and Software: +10.9% to €20.35bn
  • Public Administration and Defence: +3.7% to €3.22bn
  • Other Services (including implied rent): +3.3% to €33.90bn
  • Taxes on goods/services less subsidies: +9.8% to €8.31bn

For fiscal rules junkies, nominal GDP for H1 2014 is €90.2 billion.  Last April’s Stability Programme Update had a forecast of nominal GDP in 2014 of €168.4 billion.  The methodological revisions completed by the CSO over the summer and the recent growth mean that a nominal GDP of around €180 billion is now likely this year.  Sticking with the Department’s 3.6% nominal growth projection for next year gives a 2015 figure of €186.5 billion.  These increases in the denominator will significantly improve the appearance of fiscal ratios.

Although net exports increased and contributed around 40% of the increase in GDP the remainder is due to domestic demand.  Real total domestic demand in H1 2014 is 4.0% up on the equivalent period in 2013.  Although all components are up (consumption +1.2%, government expenditure +5.2%) much of the increase is driven by investment which is up 11.3% year-on-year.  In recent years much of the volatility in this component has been the result of aircraft purchases by leasing companies based in Ireland.

The current account of the Balance of Payments shows a surplus of 4.3% of GDP for H1 2014 compared to one of 2.5% of GDP for H1 2013.

NTMA Technical Paper: What Drove Irish Government Bond Yields During the Crisis?

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September 16th, 2014

Paper by David Purdue and Rossa White here.

Danger of irrational exuberance on economic recovery

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September 16th, 2014

John O’Hagan cautions against irrational exuberance in the lead up to Budget 2015 in today’s Irish Times. Link is here.

European Aviation Conference 2014, Amsterdam

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September 15th, 2014

The programme for the third European Aviation Conference, on the general theme of aviation infrastructure, is now available. One topic will be the forthcoming report of the Davies Commission, on expanding airport capacity in the South-East of the UK, though many other issues relating to airport and ATC infrastructure will also be covered. The conference takes place at Schiphol airport on 6th and 7th November. There is a substantial conference fee discount for students.

As usual the EAC is preceded by a more academic meeting of the German Aviation Research Society (GARS), which attracts aviation researches from across the globe; more information will be available at www.garsonline.de nearer the date.

Guest Post by Julien Mercille -The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland

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September 14th, 2014

New book out:

The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (Routledge), by Julien Mercille, University College Dublin.

 

The media have played an important role in presenting government policies enacted in response to the economic crisis since 2008. This book shows that the media have largely conveyed government views uncritically, with only a few exceptions (some of which are contributors to irisheconomy!). Throughout, Ireland is compared with contemporary and historical examples to contextualise the arguments made. The book covers the housing bubble that led to the crash, the rescue of financial institutions by the state, the role of the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund, austerity, and the possibility of leaving the eurozone for Europe’s peripheral countries. The Irish Times, Indo, Sindo, Sunday Business Post, Sunday Times and RTE are all covered.

 

The book is available here (use code FLR40 for 20% discount) and here.

 

Reviews

 

“A book of record… An exceptionally rare example of an academically rigorous analysis forcing the powerful light of transparency and exposure into the murky world of Irish policy advocacy and punditry… A captivating account.”
Constantin Gurdgiev, Trinity College Dublin

“One of the most important political economy books of the year… Set to become the definitive account of the media’s role in Ireland’s boom and bust.”
Dr. Tom McDonnell, Macroeconomist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI)

“Tells the story of the economic crisis well and explains the media’s role in convincing the public that it was all very complicated and that government policy can do little to improve the situation.”
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

“Anyone who cares about democracy and economic policy should read this book and be deeply worried by it.”
Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political Economy, Brown University and author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea

 

“A stinging critique of how Irish media narrowed the debate on crisis and austerity.”
Seán Ó Riain, Author of The Rise and Fall of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger

 

“Outstanding research… Meticulous, balanced and clear.”

Costas Lapavitsas, Professor of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

 

“Engaging, lively, critical… A must read.”

Professor Rob Kitchin, National University of Ireland Maynooth


“An invaluable concise history of Ireland’s public discussion of economic issues.”
Terrence McDonough, Professor of Economics, National University of Ireland Galway

Shortlist announced for the New Statesman/SPERI prize in political economy

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September 12th, 2014

The list is here.  In addition to the obvious candidates, I was pleased to see the inclusion of Anne Wren (affiliated with the IIIS here at TCD), with the citation reading:

 

Anne Wren

Wren’s work on the service economy deserves to be better known.  The judges said that reading her work on low wages in the services sector had the effect of ‘turning on a light-bulb’ for them and noted that The Political Economy of the Service Transition was ‘a book for our times’.  As a research associate of the Institute for International Integration Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, she combines economic insight with political acuity.

Priority for Better Regulation in Junckers Commission

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September 11th, 2014

The nominees for, and configuration of, the portfolios in the European Commission named by Jean-Claude Junckers this week gives some hint  of the priorities in European governance over coming years. In this context we might ask how significant is it that Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has been nominated as First Vice President with responsibilities to include Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights? At first glance this portfolio appears to reflect procedural rather than substantive concerns for the new Commission. The mission letter from President-Elect Junckers suggests that the brief is one which crosses the concerns of all the other portfolios indicating a recognition of the link between process and performance on key issues such as regulation.

Conference on Financial Crises: Transmission and Consequences

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September 11th, 2014

Maynooth University Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting in association with FMC2 (Financial Mathematics and Computation Research Cluster) are hosting a one-day conference on Financial Crises: Transmission and Consequences on Wednesday, September 24 in Renehan Hall, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Co.Kildare.

The event brings together leading international and domestic experts on financial crises, contagion and banking. The full programme of speakers and presentations is shown below. We invite you to join us in Maynooth. Registration is free, but please confirm your attendance by emailing: thomas.flavin@nuim.ie. The conference programme is shown below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence and Foreign Direct Investment

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September 10th, 2014

Thanks to readers for the valuable comments on my last post on Scottish independence. I have just received the transcript (here) of some brief remarks I made on the above topic at a recent conference in the UK.

Economics, new and improved

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September 10th, 2014

Many readers of Irish Economy are likely to be aware of a project to rethink the teaching of Economics, linked to the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and organised by a committee chaired by Professor Wendy Carlin of UCL. Some people associated with this blog, including Kevin O’Rourke, are also involved in this work.

A beta digital textbook (‘The Economy’) has very recently been put online and there is a useful explanatory video and a blog.

On my preliminary and (so far) partial reading of ‘The Economy’, it achieves its goal of being strikingly different to the standard first-year textbook. It places at the centre of the story familiar ideas that students and the public expect to feature in Economics and understand better through Economics, including capitalism, technology, living standards, the environment, institutions, and property rights before turning to the more abstract aspects of microeconomics. All the bells and whistles of digital publication are there too including hyperlinks to many of the readings. And of course it’s all freely available. The organisers are seeking user (student and faculty) feedback via a Facebook page and it seems there is supplementary material to follow in due course.

Martin Wolf: The Shifts and the Shocks

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September 8th, 2014

Martin Wolf’s new book is reviewed here by The Economist;  here by Ken Rogoff; and here by Joe Stiglitz.

From prosperity to austerity – book launch

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September 8th, 2014

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

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

Draghi’s Bond Rally Means Bailed-Out Ireland Can Borrow for Free

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September 5th, 2014

Ireland’s two-year yield turns negative: Bloomberg article here.

Balanced budget tax cuts

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September 5th, 2014

In his press conference yesterday, Mario Draghi said the following:

Within the Stability and Growth Pact, one could do things that are growth-friendly and also would contribute to budget consolidation, and I gave an example of a balanced budget tax cut. Reducing taxes that are especially distortionary, where the short-term multipliers could be higher, and cutting expenditure in the most unproductive parts, so mostly, actually not mostly, entirely, current government expenditure.

There are at least three possible interpretations of this statement.

1. Draghi genuinely thinks that balanced budget multipliers are negative, which I find hard to believe. A balanced budget tax cut under current circumstances would be contractionary, not expansionary; at least, that is what we teach our students.

2. Draghi genuinely thinks that the Eurozone’s problems right now are on the supply side, and that tax cuts will help address these problems. I also find that hard to believe. The major problems facing the Eurozone right now are pretty clearly on the demand side.

3. Despite its nominal independence, the ECB is in fact the most politically constrained of the major central banks. If Draghi is going to push the ECB towards QE, and question the overall fiscal stance of the Eurozone, he has to come out with this sort of stuff from time to time, to appease the Germans.

I find the last of these three explanations entirely plausible, and it helps explain the ECB’s poor performance in the crisis to date. But why should a nominally independent central bank feel that its hand are tied in this way? Ultimately, perhaps, because the Eurozone is not a political union, and because democratic legitimacy resides at the level of the member states. This means that exit from the Eurozone is always an option, even if it is not openly acknowledged.

Another reason to think that monetary union without political union is a bad idea.

DEW Conference, Cork October 17/18

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September 4th, 2014

The Dublin Economics Workshop holds its annual Economic Policy conference at the River Lee hotel in Cork on October 17/18 next. Proposals for papers are still being accepted and should be submitted to s.coffey@ucc.ie.

The full programme and booking details will be posted here in due course.

 

Political Booms, Financial Crises

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September 3rd, 2014

Political Booms, Financial Crises

Helios Herrera, Guillermo Ordonez, Christoph Trebesch

CESifo Working Paper No. 4935 (August 2014)

Download available here.

Abstract:
We show that political booms, measured by the rise in governments’ popularity, predict financial crises above and beyond other better-known early warning indicators, such as credit booms. This predictive power, however, only holds in emerging economies. We show that governments in emerging economies are more concerned about their reputation and tend to ride the short-term popularity benefits of weak credit booms rather than implementing politically costly corrective policies that would help prevent potential crises. We provide evidence of the relevance of this reputation mechanism.

The Shifting Macroeconomic Policy Debate in Europe

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September 3rd, 2014

Mario Draghi is sure to be quizzed about this Jackson Hole speech at tomorrow’s ECB press conference.

I outline the shifting macro policy debate in Europe (and the implications for the Irish budget) in this Irish Times op-ed.

Also, David McWilliams writes about this optimistic prognosis for the Irish economy here.

On the Hook for Impaired Bank Lending: Do Sovereign-Bank Interlinkages Affect the Net Cost of a Fiscal Stimulus?

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September 2nd, 2014

The new issue of the International Journal of Central Banking includes this article by Robert Kelly and Kieran McQuinn – here.

Deflation Once Again

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September 1st, 2014

The media faithfully reported Eurostat’s flash estimate of yoy inflation in the Eurozone at 0.3% for August on Friday last. The yoy rate says merely that prices were 0.3% higher in August than they had been twelve months previously. Just two pieces of information are employed – today’s number and the number twelve months earlier. The intervening eleven pieces of info are ignored.

What do these eleven observations have to say? Well it is not pretty. The index was unchanged over eight months, and actually fell over four months. The country-by-country numbers are only available for July. Here is what happened over the four months from March.

HICP July % Change over March

Belgium         -1.5                  Germany       +0.2

Greece           -0.8                  Estonia          +0.5

Spain             -1.0                  Ireland           +0.1

Italy               -1.6                 Cyprus           +2.2

Luxembourg    -0.5                  Latvia            +0.8

Austria           -0.5                  Netherlands   +0.1

Portugal         -0.1                  Slovenia        +0.2

Finland          -0.3                  Malta             +4.1

France            -0.4                  Slovakia        +0.2

Half of the 18 countries experienced price falls, half saw increases. The weighted average Eurozone inflation rate over these four most recent months was -0.5%. No large country saw a significant increase but two, Spain and Italy, saw prices fall 1% and 1.6%, hence the weighted average decline.

Using twelve-month rates is well-established but it is hardly best practice. Since the Spring it is clear that the Eurozone has been experiencing a widespread and in some cases rapid fall in prices. With nominal interest rates as low as they can go, and zero real growth, the feared deflation has already commenced. It could even be too late to do too little.

 

 

 

More on Germany

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September 1st, 2014

The economic challenges facing Germany are reported in this FT Analysis article.

Ireland

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August 28th, 2014

Micheál Collins of the Nevin Institute is out with a new paper looking at the burden of taxation by income decile by tax-type, and the results are very interesting. From the piece:

Using data from the most recent Household Budget Survey, this paper estimates both the direct and indirect taxation contributions of households. The paper examines, individually and collectively, the direct and indirect tax paid by households across the income deciles, alongside the overall average household contributions. The data is presented at the households and equivalised adult level.

This chart summarises the findings nicely.

Update: Micheál has responded to many of the main points raised in the thread here.

Germany

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August 28th, 2014

Marcel Fratzscher writes in the FT here.