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.

 

Revenue Annual Report 2017 and New Research

This morning Revenue published our Annual Report for 2017. The report contains lots of information on Revenue’s activities and outputs last year that contributed to the collection of €50.8 billion in net receipts for the Exchequer, as well as delivering on service to support compliance, the implementation of customs controls and facilitation of trade.

Also published today are a series of research papers that may interest readers of this blog:

Updated Corporation Tax research profiles tax payments received in 2017 as well as analysis of 2016 tax returns. This includes significant new analysis of multinational companies in Ireland.

An analysis of Income Dynamics and Mobility based on Revenue micro data. This examines the distribution of incomes by decile and percentile as well as tracking mobility of income earners over time.

Profiles of Excise Duty and Capital Taxes receipts. Excise, Capital Acquisitions Tax , Stamp Duty, Capital Gains Tax and Local Property Tax cover wide ranging activities, transactions and products. The profiles document these in detail and show changes in core components in recent years.  For the first time, information on capital taxes are combined together with location and earnings data to present new perspectives on the taxes.

Revenue’s latest customer survey, of small to medium sized enterprises in 2017, is Revenue’s fourth SME survey. Responses show that customer satisfaction with Revenue service remains high across a range of headings. The survey also includes a behavioural experiment to test the impact of personalisation on response rates.

Also published is the annual illegal tobacco survey results for 2017 and the first quarterly Local Property Tax statistics for 2018.

 

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.

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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

 

New Central Bank Quarterly Bulletin Published

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

Some of the forecast highlights within the Bulletin include:

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

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

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

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

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

Signed Articles

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

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

The Central Bank’s Useless Harmonised Competitiveness Indicators

This was the original title of this recent paper of mine.   Some people thought it too truculant but even Patrick Honohan – when he wanted, as Governor, to talk about competitiveness – would get his RA’s to calculate the old indicators rather than use the new ones.  To keep it eye-catching I dropped the ‘Useless’ and added ‘Pernicious or Merely Otiose?’ but then some (though not the journal, I should point out) complained that they had to reach for the dictionary!  But I think the issue is a serious one.  I am hoping that Peter Clinch at the National Competitiveness Council will take up the challenge.

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

 

Central Bank Quarterly Bulletin (QB 1 2018) published

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

Some of the highlights include:

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

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

Irish Economy

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

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

Financing Developments

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

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

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

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.

Boris Builds a Bridge

In a competitive field yesterday’s bridge across the English Channel, proposed in a solo run by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, must rank as the zaniest piece of headline-hunting since the Brexit referendum. The occasion was the visit to Britain of French president Emmanuel Macron, to meet Theresa May rather than Boris. May and Macron agreed an Anglo-French committee to consider future, but unspecified, collaborative projects, just the ticket to fill out an otherwise thin official communique from the two leaders. How to upstage?

The Boris Bridge worked a treat, reported deadpan as a news story by the BBC, prominent in the Daily Mail and the front-page lead in the Telegraph. The Express was able to offer a real scoop:

‘Emmanuel Macron has jumped at the chance of building a giant bridge linking the UK and the EU after Boris Johnson floated the idea during meetings yesterday, it has been revealed.’

Revealed to the Express only. Denials that the bridge is on any official agenda were duly issued on both sides of the channel and the wretched FT, read mainly by foreigners, did not mention the story at all.

A day later the BBC and the newspaper websites finally got round to phoning a few engineers, some of whom were unsporting enough to mention the last two great Anglo-French collaborations, Concorde, cost over-run 450%, and the channel tunnel, a snip at just 80% over budget.

The British media, including the BBC, have done an appalling job in covering the continuing Brexit circus.

Call for Papers – 6th Annual NERI Labour Market Conference – 22 May 2018

The sixth annual NERI Labour Market Conference will be held on Tuesday 22 May 2018 in association with NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change. The conference will run from 10:00am -16.15pm (followed by a reception until 16.45pm) and will include research papers on various aspects of the Irish labour market and Irish labour market policy. The NERI Labour Market Conference is intended to provide a forum for the presentation of research papers on labour market issues (North and South) and is held in May each year. Presentations from researchers, academics, policy makers and labour market practitioners are invited for this forthcoming conference. Those interested should submit a title and brief abstract (max 400 words) to tom.mcdonnell@nerinstitute.net Possible topics include but are not limited to any part of the following thematic areas:

  1. Employment, Unemployment and Labour Market Transitions (Migration, Age, Gender)
  2. Earnings, Labour Costs and Affordability
  3. Productivity, Growth and Human Capital
  4. Precariousness, Low Pay, Working Conditions and Job Quality
  5. Labour Market Participation and Activation, Demographics and Labour Supply
  6. Labour Market Institutions: Minimum/Living Wages, Collective Bargaining, Workplace Regimes
  7. Distribution and Labour Market Inequalities, Fiscal Policy and the Labour Market
  8. Pensions and Pensions Policy

Registration The conference is open to all who are interested and is free to attend. However, you must register your intention to attend the conference by contacting info@nerinstitute.net

Key Dates

Submission Deadline: 13 April 2018 (Friday)

Notification of Acceptance: 24 April 2018 (Tuesday)

Registration Deadline: 18 May 2018 (Friday)

Conference Date: 22 May 2018 (Tuesday)

Contact: tom.mcdonnell@nerinstitute.net

Call for Papers: Irish Economics Postgraduate and Early Career Conference 2018

Call for Papers: Irish Economics Postgraduate and Early Career Conference 2018

The Irish Society for New Economists (ISNE) workshop for postgraduate and early career researchers will take place in University College Dublin Geary Institute for Public Policy on Friday May 4th. The event is aimed at PhD students and early career researchers across the Irish universities. It will take the form of thematic sessions with faculty discussant input at each session, along with keynote talks, and engagement with policy and industry. We welcome submissions of papers from PhD students and early career researchers in institutions on the island of Ireland.

The ISNE was formed to encourage research, information and social links among economists at the early stages of their careers in Ireland. From 2001 to 2013, the Irish Society for New Economists (ISNE) held eleven workshops in Ireland for postgraduate and early career researchers. The events were run mostly by PhD students in the Universities, including events hosted by UCD, TCD, Limerick, Maynooth, Cork, and Galway. The conference is intended for advanced Masters students, PhD students, and young professionals in the early stages of research working in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We strongly encourage those working on economics-related research to submit. Eligibility to present is not related to age. The meeting will feature the work and findings of scholars in economics and related fields, and will provide an excellent opportunity to present your own research results and work in progress.

As the conference is free to attend, no financial assistance for travel or accommodation can be provided. Researchers wishing to submit their work for consideration are advised to submit an extended abstract (300-500 words) at this link. Applicants are asked to include their name, institute or affiliation, current academic status (PhD, Young Professional, Masters) and JEL code(s) for their research on submitting an abstract. All of the above information should be attached in a /single PDF or Word File/. The deadline for the abstract submission is 15th April 2018. Applicants will receive notification shortly afterwards. The organising committee consists of Dr. Lisa Ryan, Dr. Benjamin Elsner, and Professor Liam Delaney at UCD, and Dr. Michelle Queally at NUI Galway. Please direct inquiries to liam.delaney@ucd.ie

Latest Issue of the Economic and Social Review

The Economic and Social Review has just published its latest issue (Vol 48, No 4, Winter 2017)

Articles
Introduction: 50 Years of Social Research at the ESRI
Helen Russell, Emer Smyth

Non-Monetary Indicators and Multiple Dimensions: The ESRI Approach to Poverty Measurement
Dorothy Watson, Christopher T. Whelan, Bertrand Maître, James Williams

Gender Equality in the Irish Labour Market 1966-2016: Unfinished Business?
Helen Russell, Frances McGinnity, Philip J. O’Connell

Out-of-School Social Activities among Immigrant-Origin Children Living in Ireland
Merike Darmody, Emer Smyth

An Irish Solution…? Questioning the Expansion of Special Classes in an Era of Inclusive Education
Joanne Banks, Selina McCoy

Policy Section Articles
Atypical Work and Ireland’s Labour Market Collapse and Recovery
Elish Kelly, Alan Barrett

Supporting Pension Contributions Through the Tax System: Outcomes, Costs and Examining Reform
Micheál L. Collins, Gerard Hughes

A Portfolio Approach to Assessing an Auto-Enrolment Pension Scheme for Ireland
Liam A. Gallagher, Fionnuala Ryan

Irish Economic Association 2018 Conference

Irish Economic Association Annual Conference 2018

https://iea2018.exordo.com

http://www.iea.ie/

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.

Who is fudging? (Answer: not the EU.)

There has been a lot of talk since yesterday’s deal pointing out that there has been a certain amount of fudging going on. But there is fudge and fudge, and it’s helpful to be clear about what’s being fudged and by whom.

Paragraph 49 states:

“The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s objective is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy, and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

These are commitments made by the UK to the EU and there is very little fudge here. The UK is committing as a backstop solution to the full alignment needed to “support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy, and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” in the context of an over-arching commitment to avoid a hard border. Avoiding a hard border requires full alignment for all traded goods. North-South cooperation involves the famous 142 areas of North-South cooperation we have been hearing about, and brings services like health into the mix. The all-island economy is even broader. And the Good Friday Agreement brings things like human rights into the mix.

Paragraph 50 states that:

“In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph , the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.”

Notice anything? These are not commitments made by the EU. These are, once again, commitments made by the UK, in this instance to the DUP.

Paragraphs 49+50 appear to be a bit of a fudge, although the fudge can be undone by the entire UK maintaining full alignment with the EU. But let’s be clear: this is the UK fudging, not the EU, and the UK needs to fudge at this stage because of the internal contradictions of its own position. But the EU will naturally take the view that the UK must meet its commitments made to the EU in Paragraph 49. There is no fudge here: the EU has sought and obtained an impressive series of concessions from the UK, and the UK will be held to its word.

Note also that Paragraph 45 states that:

“The United Kingdom respects Ireland’s ongoing membership of the European Union and all of the corresponding rights and obligations that entails, in particular Ireland’s place in the Internal Market and the Customs Union. The United Kingdom also recalls its commitment to preserving the integrity of its internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it, as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union’s Internal Market and Customs Union.”

These are again UK commitments, and the first of these is in the present context a commitment to respect the fact that the EU needs to police the external frontiers of its Internal Market and Customs Union. So the turning-a-blind-eye-to-smuggling non-solution is out.

And finally, note that Paragraph 46 states that:

“The commitments and principles outlined in this joint report will not pre-determine the outcome of wider discussions on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom and are, as necessary, specific to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. They are made and must be upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom.”

The first sentence rules out the Brexiteers’ Baldrick-like cunning plan to use whatever special arrangements may be reached on the island of Ireland as precedents, allowing them to have their cake and eat it when it comes to the economic relationship between Great Britain and the European Union. And the second sentence commits the UK to uphold its engagements on Ireland in all circumstances.

As I say, it doesn’t seem to me as though the EU allowed much fudging when it came to the UK’s commitments to the EU regarding Ireland.

How Her Majesty’s Government simultaneously manages to meet its Paragraph 49 obligations to the EU, and its Paragraph 50 obligations to the DUP, taking account of inter alia Paragraphs 45 and 46, is something it will have to figure out. The UK government clearly ought to fulfil its commitments to the DUP, but whether it does so or not is hardly a primary concern of the EU. Paragraph 49 is what the EU will care about, not Paragraph 50. (Although Ireland would be very happy if the UK met both obligations in the only way that seems possible, namely by effectively staying in a Single Market and Customs Union type of arrangement with the EU.) If the UK wants to leave the EU in a civilised and amical manner, and strike a trade deal with the EU in the future, it will have to uphold the very clear commitments it has made to the EU. How the British deal with British fudge — whether Mrs May betrays the DUP, or abandons her previous red lines regarding membership of a customs union and the Single Market —  is a matter for them. But sooner or later they are going to be forced to confront and deal with the internal contradictions of their position.

Honest thoughts on educational inequality in Ireland

In discussing the sources of variation in academic achievement across students, there is a yawning chasm between the contemporary research literature (particularly in the emerging field of geno-economics) and the mainstream media. The mainstream media sticks religiously to the traditional blank slate theory, claiming that variation in student achievement is caused entirely by differing home and school environments. Tuesday’s Education Supplement of the Irish Times is a classic example. The main headline of the supplement is “Privately-educated elite have greater access to education” and the first paragraph reads as follows:

“Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are denied the same opportunities as their wealthier peers, while parents with money can afford a better education for their children despite Ireland’s so-called free education system, an analysis of the 2017 Irish Times feeder school list shows.”

The article repeatedly relies on the assumption that children of wealthier parents in Ireland perform better in school for only one reason, their parents purchase better educational outcomes through fee-paying schools, tutors, and grind courses. The current scientific literature has an entirely different flavour. A recent paper by Plomin, et al., entitled “The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence,” is typical. Synopsizing their findings, they state:

“Differences among children in educational achievement are highly heritable from the early school years until the end of compulsory education at age 16, when UK students are assessed nationwide with standard achievement tests [General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)]. Genetic research has shown that intelligence makes a major contribution to the heritability of educational achievement. However, we
show that other broad domains of behavior such as personality and psychopathology also account for genetic influence on GCSE scores beyond that predicted by intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE scores. These results underline the importance of genetics in educational achievement and its correlates.”

To be fair to the Irish Times, an inside piece by Brian Mooney in the Supplement brings a gentle hint of realism into the blank-slate-inspired tirade of the Supplement’s lead article. Mooney hints that there might possibly be other factors explaining why households with two graduate parents grab the university places rightfully going to other households.

“For schools where both parents of many students were graduates, and where they have been supported throughout their education, getting a college place is no great reflection on the success of their school. Alternatively, we are keenly aware that for schools in disadvantaged communities, securing third-level progression for even a small proportion of students is a reflection of highly motivated teachers, and is a fantastic achievement.”

Brian Mooney does not state it explicitly, but scientists have shown definitively that the most powerful “support” that two-graduate-parent households gift to their children is their two tightly packed strands of DNA, which split and recombine, creating a new human infant in the most complex and beautiful physical process in the known universe. This new human infant is not a blank slate; he/she inherits a block-random collection of genomic traits from the maternal and paternal genomes. That genetic process, not fee-paying schools or tutor expenses, is a major source of inequality in educational outcomes in Ireland.

NB: In response to thoughtful comments from colleagues, I changed “the main source” to “a major source” in the last sentence above. That is perhaps more accurate, although it does mess with the rhythm of the final sentence. This edit was made after comments below.