Tag Archives: Ireland

Ireland's first win against the All Blacks – Positive Externalities and loads of Consumer Surplus

ire-v-abs-chicagoYou maybe aware that the rugby game yesterday morning (NZ time) between Ireland and the New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago created history. It was the first time that Ireland have beaten the All Blacks – the closest they got previously was 10-10 in 1973 at Landsdowne Road (the first International that I ever attended).

Irish supporters, including myself, will take great pleasure in talking about such a result – lets face it we lost it in the last few minutes 3 years ago at Croke Park in Dublin. What all this alludes to is the fact that as part of this entertainment comes without the public paying for it, the public benefits from an externality.

Those who flew to Chicago to support Ireland and went to the game will have no doubt spent a significant amount of US dollars tonight in the bars around town. Nevertheless the satisfaction (utility) derived in US$ from the game would have been much greater than the price they paid for the ticket. This suggest that there is a lot of consumer surplus present – the difference between the price that a consumer WOULD BE WILLING TO PAY, and the price that he or she actually HAS TO PAY. The success of the Irish team will boost merchandise sales and interest for the next Test in Dublin but also has been good for rugby in general. When the All Blacks play overseas there are significant externalities whether it be the revenue generated in hosting the match or the social benefits to society. Furthermore the lead up to the game brings about a sense of delayed gratification (Behavioural Economics). The fact that people have paid for their ticket with the game in two weeks time means that they can reap the pleasures of anticipation of being at the game in Dublin. Research (Smarter Spending – see previous post) shows that owning material things from expensive homes to luxurious cars turn out to provide less pleasure than holidays, concerts or even witnessing Ireland beating the All Blacks. With Ireland’s win national pride increases, along with patriotism and people feeling better about themselves. This is turn brings people together and boosts well-being of the nation especially with the current unstable political environment and evidence that the economic recovery is starting to fade – the challenges of Brexit and recent industrial relations.

One wonders what will happen in two weeks time in Dublin but no doubt there will be externalities.

Apple Tax and Double Irish

I blogged on the ‘Double Irish’ in 2014 and that this tax arrangement would be ended fully within four years.

Yesterday the European Commission ruled that a tax deal between the Irish government and Apple amounted to illegal state aid with Apple being ordered to pay a record-breaking €13bn (NZ$20bn) in back taxes to Ireland. Apple, the world’s biggest company, was paying a tax rate of just 1% and in 2014 was paying 0.005% when he usual corporate rate in Ireland is 12.5%. This equates to €50.00 tax for every €1 million earned.

The commission said Ireland’s tax arrangements – Double Irish – with Apple between 1991 and 2015 had allowed the US company to attribute sales to a “head office” that only existed on paper and could not have generated such profits. See below:

Corporate Tax rates

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Double Irish is a tax avoidance procedure that some multinational corporations use to lower their corporate tax liability. The strategy uses payments between related institutions in a corporate structure to shift income from a higher-tax country to a lower-tax country. The most popular countries being the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Jersey and Guernsey as they have corporate tax rates of 0% – see list of Central Government Corporate Tax Rates.

Many US technology companies have taken advantage of a loop hole in Irish corporate law which allowed them to be registered in Ireland without being tax-resident there – see chart below to see how it all works. Google for instance keeps it intellectual property in an Irish company that is tax-resident in Bermuda, which has a zero tax rate of corporate tax. However from January 2015 new companies domiciled in Ireland will also have to be tax-residents there, making the Double Irish impossible.

Double Irish

House price inflation: Ireland v New Zealand

Brian Gaynor wrote a piece in the NZ Herald comparing features of the Irish and New Zealand economies. One area that he focused on was the increase in residential property prices from 1995 – 2015.

Ireland – 199%
New Zealand – 232%

Although New Zealand house prices have been increased by a larger percentage it is interesting to note that they have been relatively steady whereas Irish prices peaked in mid-2007 and then plunged 50% by early 2013. Since then they have recovered 31% but are still 35% below their highs in 2007.

Dublin house prices (average) – 2007 = $730,000 2015 = $485,000
Auckland house prices (average) – 2015 = $771,000

LTV – Loan to Value

Like the RBNZ the Irish central bank has introduced new regulations regarding mortgage lending by regulated financial services providers. These included mortgages of no more than 80 per cent of LTV (loan to value) on the principal private dwelling and no more than 70 per cent LTV on investment properties. Additionally mortgage loans on the principal private dwelling are restricted to 3.5 times gross income in Ireland but this ratio in New Zealand is 6 times although 9 times gross income in Auckland.

Ire v NZTax Policy
The two countries tax policy are interesting when you compare how they impact companies and individuals. The message for the New Zealand economy is that the experience of the Irish economy shows that countries take a long time to recover from the impact of housing collapse.

Auckland housing market like the Dublin bubble?

Between 2007 and 2010 house prices in Dublin fell by 56% and had a devastating effect on the banking system in Ireland. Is there going to be a correction in the Auckland housing market of a similar ilk?

Brian Gaynor touched on this in his column in the NZ Herald on the 16th May. Today there are some similarities to the boom in Dublin house prices and that of Auckland. These included:

1. The media painted a picture of escalating house prices and a property boom
2. Purchasers queuing overnight to buy a section or a newly built house
3. Banks offering cash incentives on home loans.
4. Very low mortgage interest rates
5. Auckland’s house prices have increased by 12.4% in the last 6 months. By comparison Dublin’s house prices never increased by more than 12% in any six month period during the boom.
6. Mortgage debt in New Zealand is now above $200 billion – doubling in 10 years. The majority of the debt being in the Auckland residential region. Consumer mortgage debt to disposable income in 2012 was 147% as compared to 58% in  March 1991. In Ireland Bank lending it was 175% in 2008. Graph below shows a graph highlighting Ireland’s exposure to debt.

bank lending EU 1997-2008

Bank lending to households and non-financial firms as a percentage of GDP for
Eurozone economies and the UK, 1997 and 2008

What is a property bubble?
Property bubbles grow as long as buyers are willing to borrow increasingly large amounts in the expectation that prices will continue to rise. This process inevitably hits a limit where borrowers become reluctant to take on what start to appear as impossibly large levels of debt, and the self-reinforcing spiral of borrowing and prices starts to work in reverse.

The end of "The Double Irish"

Corporate Tax ratesThis phrase has come up a lot in the business media. It is a tax avoidance procedure that some multinational corporations use to lower their corporate tax liability. The strategy uses payments between related institutions in a corporate structure to shift income from a higher-tax country to a lower-tax country. The most popular countries being the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Jersey and Guernsey as they have corporate tax rates of 0% – see list of Central Government Corporate Tax Rates.

Many US technology companies have taken advantage of a loop hole in Irish corporate law which allowed them to be registered in Ireland without being tax-resident there – see chart below to see how it all works. Google for instance keeps it intellectual property in an Irish company that is tax-resident in Bermuda, which has a zero tax rate of corporate tax. However from January 2015 new companies domiciled in Ireland will also have to be tax-residents there, making the Double Irish impossible.

Double Irish

Credit Rating Agencies – how countries stack up.

Rating Agencies Feb 2013Here is a list of the latest ratings by the three main rating agencies. Notice that Australia and the three Scandinavian countries have top ratings. The UK lost its top rating from Moody’s but maintained the top rating from the other two. New Zealand comes in further down with a top rating from Moody’s but has lost its top grade from the other two. When you get to B status your are talking high risk or junk status and this is quite evident with the PIGS counties.

If you have watched the movie documnetary ‘Inside Job’ you will remember that these 3 credit rating agencies also rated high risk investments – sub-prime mortgages – as AAA, up to a week before they failed. The same could be said about their rating of investment company Bear Stearns.

Ultimately they could have ‘stopped the party’ but delayed ratings reports and made junk status investments AAA rated. But as they testified in front of congress their advice to clients are opinions ‘just opinions’ – I wonder do they share the opinions of those that lost huge amounts of money, including sovereign investments. Recently they downgraded Greece and Spain in the knowledge that the servicing of the debt would now become more costly for those countries and stifle any sort of recovery in the near future.

Kilkenomics 2012 – Economics (comedy) Festival

Here is a promotional video for the recent Kilkenomics festival in Kilkenny Ireland. It brings together top economists and comedians to discuss the perils of the world economy – the debt crisis, the euro, quantitative easing, the environment etc. The clip below shows some of the highlights from last year’s festival – very amusing. Includes Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute Columbia University, Fintan O’Toole author of Ship of Fools and Enough is Enough, Will Hutton of The Guardian and a range of comedians.

Anatomy of an Irish bubble

Michael O’Sullivan wrote an interesting chapter in “Understanding Ireland’s Economic Crisis” about Ireland’s bubble. He talked about the anatomy of a bubble and went through various examples from history. There are 3 stages of the bubble which he describes:

Stage 1 – Favourable shock

The Favourable Shock – in many cases this a change in economic policy or a technological shift. Examples:

The Mississippi bubble – the creation of paper money
Railways booms in the US and UK during the 19th Century
Dot.com bubble – 1990’s
Foreign Direct Investment – Ireland 1990’s

The above events enhance expectations of future economic growth and earning potential. What helps turn the boom into a bubble is the ease of credit – expansionary monetary policy (low interest rates), relaxed lending conditions etc. This then leads to rising asset values which allows corporate and the household sector the ability to take on more debt (leverage). In Ireland real interest rates (Interest rate – CPI) was 0% in 1998-2001 and was approximately -4% in 2000.

Stage 2 – Speculative growth

The Speculative Stage is one where the ecstatic enthusiasm for risk chases high returns and investment becomes speculation. A quote from J.M.Keynes describes the change in mood:

As the bubble gains momentum some people come to believe there is a greater fool who would buy their inflated assets. With this aura of confidence and supporting arguments from the periphery – e.g. “the world has changed” or “this time it’s different” – a mood of speculative optimism becomes rampant. An example of this positive rhetoric was from former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern. He stated that those warning of the property bubble should “commit suicide”.

Stage 3 – Irrational Exuberance

Irrational Exuberance starts to dominate the “herd” and often this stage sees the sharpest and most bewildering rise in asset prices. However, there comes a time when this sort of frenzied activity cannot be maintained and eventually the bubble bursts. Most bubbles end with a tightening of monetary policy – higher interest rates – credit controls – limited borrowing potential. For Ireland, as was the case with other economies, the global financial crisis was the “lighting of the fuse”

The Irish Credit Bubble
Morgan Kelly wrote a paper on this and below is a chart from the book “Understanding Ireland’s Economic Crisis” which shows how bank lending assisted the bubble. In 1997 Irish bank lending to the non-financial private sector was only 60% of GNP compared with 80% in most eurozone economies and the UK. By 2008 bank lending grew to 200% of national income. Irish banks were lending 40% more in real terms to property developers alone in 2008 than they had been lending to everyone in Ireland in 2000, and 75% more as mortgages.

A2 Economics – Phillips Curve – an Irish Perspective

Coming from Ireland I took a keen interest in the book entitled “Understanding Ireland’s Economic Crisis” edited by Stephen Kinsella and Anthony Leddin. It is a series of papers written by Irish academics which focuses on the causes of the largest destruction of wealth of any developed economy during the 2007-2010 global financial crisis. One paper on “The Phillips Curve and the Wage-Inflation Process in Ireland” lent itself to the Unit 6 of the A2 CIE syllabus. Remember the Phillips curve:

Bill Phillips, a New Zealander who taught at the London School of Economics, discovered a stable relationship between the rate of inflation (of wages, to be precise, rather than consumer prices) and unemployment in Britain over a long period, from the 1860s to the 1950s. Higher inflation, it seemed, went with lower unemployment. To the economists and policymakers of the 1960s, keen to secure full employment, this offered a seductive trade-off: lower unemployment could be bought at the price of a bit more inflation.

The graphs below show the unemployment and inflation in Ireland between 1987 and 2012.

Notice the following:
1987: – 17% unemployment with over 3% inflation
1988-99: – unemployment falls to 5% and inflation 1.5%
1999-2000: – inflation increases from 1.5% to just over 7%. This increase was largely due to expansionary fiscal policy (demand-pull inflation) and capacity constraints that led to higher costs of production (cost-push). This led to a classic Phillips Curve situation as unemployment was at 4% and the unexpected increase in inflation had caused workers to ask for higher wages. With the low rate of unemployment their bargaining position was very strong.
2001-2004: – during this period we see the typical Phillips Curve wage-price spiral. When there is an unexpected rise in inflation this is accompanied by inflationary expectations and Ireland saw a dramatic upsurge in nominal pay awards. As demand-pull inflation fed into cost-push Irish inflation remained relatively high over the next 3 years.
2005-2008: – with unemployment still around 4% wages continued to rise significantly as inflation remained around the 5% level.
2008-2011: the global financial crisis hits the world economy and unemployment in Ireland hits 15% in the space of 2 years. Meantime the trade-off with inflation starts with the CPI reaching over -6% at the end of 2009. More recently we see inflation getting up to 3% with the rate of unemployment increasing at a diminishing rate.

Although economic indicators are improving in Ireland there is still a long way to go before they can be more confident about its outlook.