Framing a Greek Deal

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February 9th, 2015

Bill Emmott writes in the FT here.

OECD 2015 Going for Growth Report

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February 9th, 2015

here.

Are Economists Overrated?

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February 9th, 2015

NY Times debate here.

GDP-indexed bonds; ECB and Greece

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February 6th, 2015

Economist article on economics of GDP-indexed bonds here.

FT editorial on ECB and Greece here.

MGI: Debt and (not much) deleveraging

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February 5th, 2015

The latest report on global debt levels and deleveraging from McKinsey Global Institute: here.

Pawn to King Four

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February 4th, 2015

The ECB has tonight withdrawn the eligibility as collateral for ‘normal’ liquidity provision of self-issued Greek bank paper guaranteed by the Greek government, effective February 11th. The banks must henceforth rely on ELA from the Greek central bank, permission for which is reviewed fortnightly by the ECB, next meeting February 18th. The ECB statement contains this sentence:

‘The Governing Council decision is based on the fact that it is currently not possible to assume a successful conclusion of the programme review and is in line with existing Eurosystem rules.’

Note that the decision is based on a fact! The opinion formed, presumably today, that the programme review may not be successfully completed, was reasonable yesterday and the day before, but has miraculously assumed the status of a fact this evening.

Surely the ECB would not deliberately encourage a run on the banks (presumed solvent, rightly or wrongly, if they are to be ELA-eligible) in a member state? Whaddya mean they did it before?

Michael Noonan: Opening Statement on Dáil Éireann Private Members Motion – Debt Conference

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February 4th, 2015

Here.

DoF/NTMA Updates

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February 4th, 2015

IMF Surveillance in Europe

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February 3rd, 2015

ECB OP here.

Irish Economy Conference: Learning from Crisis

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February 2nd, 2015

Organised by ESRI, UCD, the Geary Institute, UL and the University of Stirling, the theme for this year’s conference is  “Learning from Crisis”. The venue is the Institute of Banking (map), North Wall Quay, Dublin 1 on  25th February 2015.

To cover costs of room hire and tea/coffee, there will be a charge  of 40 euros, and you can pay here. [[Please note, registration has now closed.]]

Students, unemployed, and OAPs can avail of a reduced rate of 10 euros, and can pay here. [[Please note, registration has now closed.]]

The Programme is below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rogoff on Greece

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February 2nd, 2015

here.

Ideological Differences between Economists

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February 2nd, 2015

Scott Sumner provides a valuable discussion of the shifting ideological biases of American economists in this piece.

Where did all the money channelled into property-backed lending go?

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February 2nd, 2015

Patrick Honohan provides an accounting of the gains and losses from the property boom-bust cycle here.

Lamfalussy was right: independence and interdependence in a monetary union

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February 2nd, 2015

Speech by Benoit Coeure here.

IMF Staff Reports

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January 29th, 2015

Released by the IMF:

There is lots of detail in both reports but it is likely most attention will focus on paragraphs 48-52 of the ex-post evaluation (though it’s all pretty much been said before).

Household Finance and Consumption Survey 2013

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January 29th, 2015

Report from the CSO here with this press release.  This is a valuable piece of information that fills an important gap.

IEA 2015 – Submission Deadline Approaching Fast!

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January 27th, 2015

The 29th Annual Irish Economic Association Conference will be held at the Institute of Banking, IFSC, 1 North Wall Quay, Dublin 1 on Thursday May 7th and Friday May 8th, 2015. Edgar Morgenroth (Economic and Social Research Institute) is the local organizer.

The ESR guest lecture will be given by Professor Christopher Udry (Yale University) and the Edgeworth Lecture by Professor Giancarlo Corsetti (University of Cambridge).

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 8th of February 2015 and submissions can be made through this site.

Please note that the Irish Economic Association awards two prizes for conference papers, the Denis Conniffe prize and the Novartis prize.

The Denis Conniffe prize of €500 is awarded for the best paper by a young author-presenter at the Irish Economic Association annual conference. To be eligible the author must be either (a) aged < 30 or (b) within 3 years of finishing a PhD. For co-authored papers, all co-authors must meet these criteria. If you are eligible for this award and would like to be considered for the prize, please let the conference organiser know, when submitting your paper. The prize award will be decided by the IEA council and will be announced at the annual conference.

The Novartis prize of €500, is sponsored by Novartis Ireland, is awarded to the best Health Economics paper presented at the Irish Economic Association annual conference. If you consider your paper to be in the “health economics” field and would like to be considered for the prize, please let the conference organiser know, when submitting your paper. Members of the IEA council or individuals affiliated to Novartis are not eligible for the prize. The prize award will be decided by the IEA council and will be announced at the annual conference.

Yanis Varoufakis

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January 27th, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis will be confirmed as the new Greek finance minister later today.  He “is no extremist.” [EDIT: The Guardian think “radical”.]

Here is a recent interview with him and ‘A modest proposal for resolving the eurozone crisis’ is here.  Back in September a document on ‘What the Syriza government will do’ was published.

A moment of truth for the European project

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January 26th, 2015

I thought that an appropriate way to celebrate Syriza’s victory was to do what I should have done a long time ago, and finally read Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void on the journey from Dublin to Oxford this morning. It’s a terrifically insightful (and readable, and short) book that had me nodding in agreement throughout, and you could base a whole series of blog posts on it. So let me just pick up, on the day that is in it, on one of the very last points made in the book:

…we are afforded a right to participate at the European level…and we are afforded the right to be represented in Europe, even if it is sometimes difficult to work out when and how this representative link functions; but we are not afforded the right to organise opposition within the European polity. There is no government-opposition nexus at this level.  We know that a failure to allow for opposition within the polity is likely to lead either (a) to the elimination of meaningful opposition, and to more or less total submission, or (b) to the mobilisation of an opposition of principle against the polity — to anti-European opposition and to Euroscepticism

Democratic political systems need oppositions which can force policy reversals if voters decide that that is what they want. Kicking the bums out is not enough, we have to be able to kick out their policies as well.

Syriza is opposed to European macroeconomic policy, and won the elections on that basis. They speak for lots of Eurozone voters, not just Greek ones. If the EU have any sense they will not play hardball with the new Greek government, especially since just about everyone agrees that Greece’s debt is unsustainable. Nor should anyone be hoping that the new Greek government will be “pragmatic”, and forget its opposition pledges once in government. The Greeks want fundamental change, and have voted for a democratic pro-European party to express that desire — which, you might think, is a lot more than the Troika deserves. If Syriza doesn’t deliver, for fear of upsetting its Eurozone partners, voters may turn to parties that really are anti-European. In the Greek context, that could be very ugly indeed.

How the EU responds to last night’s election will tell us a lot about the actually existing European project.

Opening Statement to Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

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January 21st, 2015

My opening statement is here.

The background papers are:

Irish Banking Review 1997

Irish Banking Review 1998

Journal of Economic Perspectives 2006

Irish Crisis Paper 2010

NESC Background Paper 2010

Journal of Economic Perspectives 2012

 

 

Quote of the day

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January 20th, 2015

 “One must prevent the dealings of the ECB from easing the pressure for improvements in competitiveness.” 

(Angela Merkel, according to the FT.)

It is very good to see this sentiment being openly expressed by the German leader, since it is what we believe the German government thinks, and confirmation is useful. But, really, it is intolerable. Where in the treaties does it say that Eurozone monetary policy should be run in a sub-optimal and deflationary manner, thus increasing unemployment, putting the public finances under pressure and worsening economic distress more generally, so as to force other peoples’ governments to do things that the Germans think are good for them, but that have nothing to do with monetary policy?

No democrat should accept a Eurozone run along those lines.

For Risk Measurement Nerds Only: The Swiss Franc Shock was a 200-sigma event

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January 20th, 2015

On January 15th, the one-day return to holding Swiss Francs from a Euro perspective was 16.9%. This is a high one-day return for any currency pair, but appears cataclysmic given the extremely low return volatility of the Swiss Franc from a Euro perspective in recent months. This one-day jump was a “239-sigma event” meaning that the magnitude of this return was 239 times the recent return volatility (using a 90-day historical estimate of volatility). In fact, in the period just before the sudden jump, the sample volatility of this exchange rate was even lower. Using a shorter 20-day volatility estimate, the sudden jump was a 400-sigma event.

It is interesting how closely the time-series behaviour of this exchange rate matches the predictions of Krugman’s 1991 model of a government-implemented exchange rate limit, in which traders credibly believe that the authorities will prevent the exchange rate from piercing the exchange rate limit. As the fundamentals for the exchange rate made the Swiss Franc greatly undervalued, the traded exchange rate settled down just near the government-imposed limit, with very low volatility. And then suddenly the credible promise became a non-promise.

Chalk one up for Krugman, in terms of the elegant fit between his theoretical model and this recent market experience. Several forex trading firms went bust, but they should have had better risk management systems.

John Van Reenen: Solving the Growth Puzzle

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January 20th, 2015

Slides, audio and video from this talk at IIEA yesterday - here.

Central Bank of Ireland Conference: Balance Sheet Recovery of Households and Firms

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January 20th, 2015

Friday January 30th.  Details here.

Chetty on Behavioural Economics and Policy

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January 19th, 2015

From the recent AEA conference, Raj Chetty’s lecture on behavioural economics and public policy is one of the most useful summaries to date (summary here).

Ireland—Lessons from Its Recovery from the Bank-Sovereign Loop

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January 19th, 2015

Papers by Schoenmaker, Fatas and Eichengreen now online at conference page here.

Reminder: live webfeed available during the event.

 

 

Irish Unemployment

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January 18th, 2015

I was asked to provide links and suggestions in terms of policies to respond to unemployment in Ireland. The broad fiscal and monetary causes of unemployment are discussed in many other places and it is clear that a combination of a property bubble, banking collapse and policies that have kept aggregate demand too low are all contributing factors. In considering unemployment, it is clear that more than just the short run shock to income and consumption should be considered. There  is substantial evidence that unemployment has substantial negative psychological effects that are scarring over life and also potentially self-perpetuating. Therefore it should get greater weighting in policy contexts than for models that just examine narrow financial variables. Below are some ideas on potential policy development.

(i) Bell and Blanchflower have written several papers on responding to unemployment in particular to youth unemployment. In one of the most directly relevant to policy, they list 10 potential policies for the UK environment. These are listed below. It is clear that some of these are more feasible than others in the Irish context. For example, people might find a raising of the school leaving age infeasible but a proxy policy such as the introduction of an Education Maintenance allowance is surely worth debating. Similarly, people may not think a fiscal stimulus (at least at Irish-specific level) is feasible but that does not negate the potential for examining the employment consequences of existing current and in particular capital spending. Also some of the policies below have been features of the Irish environment in various ways including increasing the number of back-to-education places.

a. The government should undertake a substantial fiscal stimulus focused on jobs, as soon as possible

b. Provide large cuts in income taxes and National Insurance Contributions aimed at the low paid and the young. For the unemployed, mortgage interest payments could also be paid by the government in the form of a loan, with the proviso that it would have to be paid back eventually.

c. Increase the education leaving age to eighteen starting in June 1st 2009 or as soon thereafter as is feasible.

d. Provide further encouragement for those in the age range 18-24 to undertake further/higher education by increasing the number of places available

e. Provide further encouragement for those in the age range 18-24 to undertake further/higher education by providing financial inducements for them to do so

f. Expand the numbers of teacher training places as soon as possible with an emphasis on training in further education

g. Do direct job creation through increased investment in the infrastructure with particular emphasis on ‘shovel ready’ projects that could start quickly.

h. Allow public sector and non-profit organizations to fill available vacancies by providing increased funding for two years

i. Temporary, limited and targeted expansion of ALMPs

j. Provide incentives to encourage the use of short-time working and job sharing as alternatives to redundancy and unemployment. These might take the form of time limited tax incentives

(ii) See the session from the 2012 Irish economy conference last year for a range of coherent ideas. The session on early childhood development is also very useful.

(iii) The role of better designed welfare and activation policies drawing from developments in the economics of evaluation is something that should be discussed further. Very few if any of the current government employment programmes have been or can be evaluated formally due to the way they are rolled out. For example, the evaluation of Jobbridge does not contain a sufficiently well-constructed control group to allow us to know what would have happened had Jobbridge not been rolled out. This is a problem across most areas of government intervention in the labour market and it hampers the ability to learn from programmes that are rolled out. The best way to achieve this would be to have someone who knows how to construct a causal evaluation assist in the process of writing the tenders for these evaluations, something that does not appear to happen at present.

(iv) I have posted here on a number of occasions about the potential role of understanding psychology in designing welfare policies and job activation. Many activation policies are based on models of human behaviour that are not grounded in empirical evidence. Denise Hawkes from UCL Institute of Education and others have been conducting very interesting behavioural trials in UK job centres (see recent Stirling conference for summary). This is early stage work but is an obvious direction for figuring out how to make government supports for people who are unemployment more effective and supportive. The redevelopment of FAS/SOLAS and the design of communication about welfare policies, education incentives and so on should integrate this literature.

(v) The key missing aspect from traditional models of job activation is the mental health effect of job loss. I have posted on this here recently  and here. The work of Professor Richard Layard in promoting development of policy around unemployment and mental health has been one of the key breakthroughs in this area over the last decade. From what I can see it has gotten not very much attention in Ireland and it would be worth debating this here a lot more with a view to assessing whether some of the ideas should be implemented.

(vi) More generally, a lot of knowledge gaps exist including basic profiles of the unemployed in Ireland such as their processes of job search. While basic profiling has been taking place, there is not a well-developed model of job search such as could be constructed from the DWP job search study. We also know very little about interlinkages between debt, housing and unemployment though the central bank research is improving the situation in this regard. In general, the data available to study job search in Ireland could be improved substantially with more engagement between policy and academics.

The Funding of the Irish Domestic Banking System During the Boom

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January 16th, 2015

The revised version of the paper I presented at SSISI is here.

Cross-Country Exposures to the Swiss Franc

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January 16th, 2015

Jointly with Agustin Benetrix, I wrote a paper on this topic for a SNB conference in November:  it is here.

TCD Seminar, January 23: Resolving Residential Mortgage Distress: Time to Modify?

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January 15th, 2015

 IIIS Seminar Room,  Level 6, TCD Arts Block

9am-10am,  Friday January 23

Resolving Residential Mortgage Distress: Time to Modify? 

Jochen R. Andritzky (IMF)

 

  

Summary: In housing crises, high mortgage debt can feed a vicious circle of falling housing prices and declining consumption and incomes, leading to higher mortgage defaults and deeper recessions. In such situations, resolution policies may need to be adapted to help contain negative feedback loops while minimizing overall loan losses and moral hazard. Drawing on recent experiences from Iceland, Ireland, Spain, and the United States, this paper discusses how economic trade-offs affecting mortgage resolution differ in crises. Depending on country circumstances, the economic benefits of temporary forbearance and loan modifications for struggling households could outweigh their costs.