ESRI Geary Lecture – Tim Besley, LSE

This year’s Geary Lecture will be delivered by Tim Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science, LSE. He will speak on

“Making and Breaking Tax Systems: Institutional Foundations of the Fiscal State”

Date: Friday 19th October

Time: 4pm

Venue: ESRI, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay

Attendance at the event is free but must be pre-booked. There are a limited number of places available and early booking is encouraged. To book a place, please send details of attendee’s name, organisation and contact telephone number by email to

Inflation in Ireland and the Euro area

In an earlier post I drew attention to the extent to which Ireland’s recent apparent competitive gains reflected the weakness of the euro relative to the dollar and sterling.

Another component of competitiveness is, of course, our rate of inflation relative to that of the Euro area as a whole.

It is therefore of interest to put on record the inflation rates in Ireland and in the Euro area since 1999.

This is facilitated by the European Central Bank’s website, from which monthly data on the rate of inflation as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) may be readily downloaded.

The following Chart tells the story.

It may be seen that for the first five years of the new monetary union Ireland’s inflation rate was – contrary to expectations – significantly higher than the Euro area average.  This resulted in a significant loss of competitiveness relative to the rest of the Euro area.

For the years between 2004 and 2007 our inflation rate behaved as expected in a monetary union and differed little from that of the Euro area average.

During 2009 and 2010 we experienced more deflation than the rest of the Euro area. This helped restore some of the competitiveness we had lost in the early years of membership and the ‘internal devaluation’ was hailed at the time in the belief that it would play a big role in getting the economy moving again.

Since 2010, however, our inflation rate has been climbing back up towards the Euro area average.

It would seem that any further ‘restoration of competitiveness’ will require further weakness of the euro on the foreign exchange markets.

Dutch Bankers’ Bonuses Go Bye-Bye, Thanks to Twitter

One thing journalists from other countries ask quite frequently is why there haven’t been more riots or other expressions of collective anger in Ireland, given the scale of the problems we’ve faced and the sheer injustice of some of the actions taken since all of this began in 2007. I always answer that I have no idea why we haven’t seen more grass roots reactions like Bondwatch Ireland. I really don’t know.

Last March in Holland we had an example of twitter-inspired social unrest leading to the reversal of bonuses being paid out. This is the first I’ve seen of it, so I thought I’d blog it.

From the piece:

ING customers mobilised on Twitter and other social networks to protest at bonuses paid to bosses at the bank, one of the biggest in the country. The threat of direct action raised the spectre of a partial run on ING, terrifying the Dutch establishment. Fred Polhout, union organiser at the bank, says: “People were outraged. We heard about the bloated sums being paid again in the City and in New York; but suddenly the issue exploded on our own front door.”


So severe was the public reaction to Hommen’s bonus that within days he had agreed to waive the award and told other ING directors to do the same.

Fascinating, and perhaps something to watch for in the coming months in an Irish context.

Nama’s Mortgage Enhancement Scheme

In today’s Irish Times, Fiona Reddan has an interesting short article about Nama’s planned mortgage-enhancement scheme. The scheme is intended to unload some of Nama’s large inventory of houses and flats without unduly lowering property prices.  The scheme, at least as it has been described so far, will work as follows.  Suppose that Nama wants to sell a particular flat for 100,000.  It will offer a buyer the following deal. The purchaser must put down 10,000 in cash, and take out a mortgage from a bank for 72,000.  Nama will pay (itself) the remaining 18,000 and record the flat as sold at 10,000+72,000+18,000 = 100,000.  If after an initial period, say five years, the fair market value of  the house is more than 82,000 (the amount already paid by the homeowner) than the homeowner must “top up” the difference to a maximum of 18,000.  If the fair-market value of the house is 82,000 or less at this date, the homeowner has no need to pay the remainder.

ESRI – TCD Conference: Turning Globalisation to National Advantage: Economic Policy Lessons from Ireland’s Experience

This conference will be held at the ESRI on Thursday 28th October from 13:30 to 17:30 and will discuss research results from two IRCHSS-funded projects focused on the effects of globalisation on the Irish economy and related policy responses. The conference programme can be found here. There is no attendance fee, but guests are asked to register here by the 23rd October. Any queries can be addressed to Karen Mayor (