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Employment figures and recovery? February 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

It’s almost inexplicable to me how the current media comment on the latest unemployment figures, which show a net increase of 10,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2012, are being trailed as evidence that the ‘recession is over’ and the ‘recovery under way’. Take Dan O’Brien’s latest thoughts on the topic this morning.

No wait. Inexplicable? Nah… not at all. This ‘evidence’ is a response to marginal figures which in themselves are problematic and also are insufficient to give us the full context.

Yesterday O’Brien in the Irish Times has little choice but to implicitly admit to this. He references the fact that the number of those claiming unemployment benefit has declined by 20,000 since 2011. But…

Most of the decline in the numbers claiming jobless benefits was accounted for by those under 25 signing off the Live Register. Although yesterday’s figures do not estimate migration patterns, it is likely that a rise in emigration is the cause of a considerable proportion of the overall decline.

And once that is factored in and applied to employment figures then it is clear that any ‘recovery’ is built upon very significant numbers departing this state. That’s not a recovery in any real sense. Then there’s the areas that are experiencing this supposed recovery:

By region, Dublin and the south-west accounted for almost all of the Irish economy’s expansion in employment in the second half of last year. Both regions also recorded the State’s lowest unemployment rates as of the final quarter of 2012. While these regions had jobless rates of below 12 per cent, the labour market in the southeast remains the worst affected, with unemployment at almost 19 per cent.

There’s another factor, a sort of crucial factor most would think, and again O’Brien is forced to face facts:

That most of the increase in employment was accounted for by part-time rather than full-time jobs took some of the shine off yesterday’s numbers.

According to the CSO full time employment fell by 12,800 over the year and part-time employment increased by 14,000.

So we’re not really talking like and like, are we? Oddly though in today’s piece O’Brien argues that ‘as encouraging again are the kinds of jobs that are being created. Sectors that generate sustainable and/or well-paid employment are doing best’. Now it’s not a direct contradiction of his thoughts yesterday, but…

Anyhow the fact remains that our unemployment rate is 14.2 per cent. That’s 300,000 people. And as O’Brien also has to note ‘[this] remains one of the highest in Europe’ and even more importantly ‘It will take a very long time even to push it into single digits’. This is an historically disastrous figure, particularly contextualised with significant emigration figures.

There’s more than one other issue waiting in the wings. Take for instance interest rates which have been at near historic lows across the past number of years can only move in one direction, and that is upwards. I wonder what is going to happen when the already near unserviceable mortgages for a significant tranche of house ‘owners’ are extended to yet others in that demographic? What happens to discretionary expenditure? What happens to growth?

I don’t often turn to Mark Fielding of ISME for his thoughts, but he’s not far wrong when he is quoted as describing…

…the “actual increase” in employment during the year as “paltry”.
“It is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the ambitious plan to have 100,000 additional people in work by 2016.”

But then I think Alan McQuaid put it best some time back, and he is presumably no champion of those in opposition to the orthodoxy. In talking about the housing market he made the point which readily applies further afield that:

The bottom line is that Ireland remains a long way from where it wants/needs to be as regards credit demand/availability to get the domestic economy moving again. The reality is that until the banking sector crisis is fully resolved and things improve on the labour market front then the supply/demand for credit will stay subdued in our view, severely hampering the overall recovery prospects for the economy as a whole in the process.”

And then we look at other pieces of the puzzle and not much sign of a recovery there. Indeed…

Total retail sales have now fallen by more than 25 per cent since the start of the recession.


Actually, it’s interesting to consider the unadjusted unemployment figures across Europe for Q3 2012. Highest is Spain at 25. Greece is at 24.8 (up from 12.4 in Q£ 2010). Portugal is at 16. And then it’s us. As to the UK, 8 and France 9.7 while Italy, for all the angst, is at 9.8.


Meanwhile, as noted by Jonathan in comments here…

Danny McCoy of IBEC is looking for the government to do yet more for business (and as someone notes in comments pushing the old marginal as against effective tax rates line).

The song remains the same – eh?

Dervla Murphy: A conversation about Gaza, 2nd of March February 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Anti Property Tax Campaigners occupy headquarters of International financial company. Sending out message of “It’s not our debt, and we’re not paying”. February 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Many thanks to the person who sent this…

Up to 30 members of the Campaign Against Home And Water Taxes ( CAHWT) occupied the Docklands headquarters of PriceWaterHouse Coopers for an hour today . They then left and proceeded to the nearby National Convention Centre where an IBEC CEO conference was taking place. Congratulations to all those who took part in this very well planned and executed protest , bringing the message home to those who helped create the economic crisis and expect the working class to pay for their sins . Full press release below. Photos here.

Members of the Campaign Against Home And Water Taxes ( CAHWT) are currently occupying the headquarters of Price Waterhouse Coopers in Dublin’s Docklands.

This is the first occupation of this type held by the campaign, and represents a significant escalation of our protest activity . It is designed to draw attention to the financial institutions that have avoided the effects of the economic crisis while ordinary workers and their families are made to suffer.

According to Claire Casey of East Wall CAHWT : “For too long those
who helped cause the economic crisis have gotten off too lightly. They
have maintained their wealth, continue to make profits and have borne no responsibility for their actions. Meanwhile, we have all been hammered, ordinary workers and their families have endured pay cuts, job losses, increasing living costs and more and more unfair taxes. Today we want to get our message out loud and clear – this is not our debt, and we’re not paying”.

Claire Casey went on to state: ” PriceWaterhouseCoopers are one of the leading companies in an industry that designs and markets aggressive tax avoidance schemes. They create sham transactions, phoney losses and phantom assets to enable their clients to dodge taxes.”

As an example of questionable financial behaviour she highlighted the well known details of Google Ireland , who with a turnover of €47.44 billion between 2005 and 2011 paid a mere €69.91 million in tax , a rate of just 0.14% .

Claire continued : ” This is just one example. Ireland is internationally famous for it’s facilitation of massive tax avoidance and it’s poor financial regulations. At the same time draconian legislation is being introduced to allow the Government direct access to citizens wages, benefits and possibly even our private bank accounts. This is utterly unacceptable.”

Todays occupation takes place to coincide with the Irish Business Enterprise Confederation (IBEC) C.E.O Conference 2013 , taking place in the National Convention Centre , Spencer Dock. PWC are amongst the sponsors of this event. Amongst the 400 high profile guests at this event are José Manuel Barrosa , Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore . The presence of the Taoiseach and Government ministers at such a gathering is a clear indication of what we can expect in the coming years – more “business friendly” government policy , light touch ‘enforcement’ on the financial services and a continuance of the behaviour that put Ireland at the centre of the global economic collapse. Unfortunately , to allow this to happen it is necessary for the austerity agenda – an attack on the living standards of Irish Citizens- to continue . IBEC are not only in favour of a ‘property tax’ on the family home , they want it to be twice what is already proposed.

According to Bernie Hughes of Finglas CAHWT : “This IBEC conference will help set an agenda of protecting the wealthy and making everyone else pay . IBEC are a ruthless , greed driven organisation , that promote an anti worker agenda . They have consistently called for cuts in workers’ pay and pensions. They even called for Property tax to be doubled , so that home owners could contribute more and business interests would pay less “.

Bernie Hughes continued: ” The so called Property Tax is a tax on the family home , and along with the planned water charges and the just announced broadcasting charge represents a further squeezing of every last cent possible from working people . We should not be forced to pay for the sins of others , and we have to take a strong stance to oppose the attacks by Fine Gael and Labour , who are are simply following Fianna Fails lead and letting business interests make the decisions”.

Price Waterhouse Cooper are a very well connected company , working extensively for both the private sector and the Irish Government. They acted as tax advisors to the disgraced Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) on the disastrous bottle glass site deal . Former Chairman of the DDDA , Donal O’Connor , was also on the board of Anglo Irish Bank, and was a partner in PWC. Incredibly , they were paid almost 5 million euro for advising the government on the bank guarantee , while having previously acted as bank auditors , and their assesment of Anglo Irish was incredibly inaccurate . They also compiled a report on water metering for Minister Phil Hogan .

The occupation of Price Waterhouse Cooper by CAHWT activists represents an escalation of protest action by the campaign , which is expected to increase in the coming months in opposition to the property tax. Financial institutions played a core role in the economic crisis and cannot be ignored by a campaign made up of those who are refusing to be made pay for their actions.

Rumours… February 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.
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Not sure how many of you heard about this, but a week or two ago someone told me that the Gift Voucher Shop, part of An Post, had gone to the wall. You may know them better as One4All vouchers which can be spent in a broad range of shops. As the SBP reported:

The rumour earlier this month that the Gift Voucher Shop – a subsidiary of An Post and behind the One4all brand – was going into examinership was untrue, but it took a significant amount of disproving by the marketing team, and an unplanned marketing spend of €250,000. “It was – and is – costly, but we’re prepared to invest and committed to keeping it going,” said Aoife Garvey, group marketing manager for Britain and Ireland. The Gift Voucher Shop ran an exhaustive PR campaign in the immediate aftermath, complemented by print and TV advertising.

To be honest I was sceptical – as a part of An Post if the company had collapsed then it would seem to presage something a lot more widespread and worse. The first thing I did was check out the Gift Voucher Shop website which pointed out that the rumour was untrue and that the vouchers are regulated under EU rules. The company itself – naturally – took it very seriously.

In closely monitoring the volume of online conversation about the rumour, Garvey and her marketing team (of seven) watched interest in the veracity of the rumour peak on Thursday evening, but peter out over the weekend.
“We ran a press campaign that weekend, with a number of full-page ads in national media,” she said.
“We had obviously reached out to our own database of corporate clients and so forth, but we needed to do more to get the regulated and secure nature of our product out to a broader, quite fragmented audience.”

What got me was that it took a moment to go to their website and discover that the rumour was incorrect. And presumably all those online who were spreading the rumour could do likewise. But they apparently didn’t. Sort of depressing in a way.

Speeding towards the next election… February 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Backroom in the SBP opens with a provocative statement:

The quick succession of a big deal on the promissory notes and a widely welcomed – albeit belated – apology to the women of the Magdalen Laundries have removed the unmistakable sense of drift which had settled around the government in recent months.


There was a sense that the coalition was increasingly unable to show the public that it was shaping events or in touch with the views of the people it was elected to serve.

S/he continues:

To show that you can impose yourself at the centre of the national narrative is a positive thing. Brian Cowen’s catastrophic final year was dominated by the fact that, no matter what the government did, it simply could never get a break or give a sense of leadership. At least Enda Kenny and his colleagues have shown that they still know how to get themselves front and centre.
What is curious is that they haven’t actually managed to lift the undeniable sullenness among Fine Gael and Labour people. Much of their reaction to the promissory note deal was less about taking pleasure in a job well done than a statement of defiance, expressed almost in anger, that “we’re not dead yet”.

But is it curious? Because such ‘events’ don’t exist in a vacuum where a credulous electorate simply laps up uncritically any old guff that’s thrown at them (though their subsequent electoral choices may leave a lot to be desired). What was striking about the promissory note discussion in the wake of the ‘deal’ was the range of voices, not just those on the left, but those centre and right who pushed back against the government’s narrative.

Which is why Backroom’s next point is intriguing:

This is surprising because the coalition has an enormous majority and three years to go before there needs to be a general election. If you ask around Leinster House, there is common agreement that it’s not really about the polls. There’s more than enough time, and they face an organisationally weak opposition. Sure, wasn’t Bertie Ahern dead and buried for more than a year before the 2007 election and yet still gained votes?

Hmmmm… a lot of questionable statements in the above. The majority is solid, and yes, there’s little or no prospect of an election before those who are in government want to hold it. But. The context is everything. This is a government in power during a particularly difficult economic period, a government which is – whether its constituent elements like it or not, and some like it – is forced to impose austerity on a scale hitherto unknown in the contemporary period, and to continue to do so for years to come. Moreover its approach is essentially indistinguishable from that of its predecessor.

Then there’s the issue about the polls. Enda Kenny cannot fail to be weakened by their continual indications of increasing electoral weakness. Likewise, to a greater extent, for Gilmore. It may be true that the opposition is weak in organisational terms, although that may be overstated because the messages the Government is forced to deliver week in week out are so negative that all others look good by contrast (even Fianna Fáil, and lamentably also increasingly so).
Still, can’t entirely disagree with the following:

No, what’s bothering the government is that it believes its great work to save the country is not being adequately recognised, because of . . . guess who? The media, of course.
“That was a great initiative we launched the other day, but it got no coverage” is the refrain from ministers, advisers and fellow-travellers alike.

I’ve noted before how detached this government seems to be. It’s something common to Governments of all stripes, but this one seems to have perfected it. They genuinely appear unable to understand the impact of their policies. Or worse they’re simply indifferent to them. My own theory, for what it’s worth, is that they developed an attitude that simply because they weren’t FF and because they see themselves as purer than pure it doesn’t matter as much about the outcomes as the fact that their intentions are – as they would see it – good. The wholesale bonfire of their pre-election pledges is a perfect example of that where the fact of their u-turn (and worse) is seen as somehow irrelevant because they mean well. That’s problematic because it’s hardly half a step away from arrogance – some might say it’s no distance at all from it. But how else to explain the lofty disdain they express for all others, the dismissive attitude to criticisms both great and small and their oddly cloth-eared approach to day to day politics?

Interestingly Backroom goes some way with the idea the media is part of the problem…

Is it possible, in today’s Ireland, for any government which is not constantly handing out goodies to get positive coverage? Is the very way in which politics is covered such that cynicism and negativity will always be to the fore?

And that old saw is dragged out…

While the government is, rightly, held to account and challenged about its decisions, nothing comparable ever happens on the other side.
Strong non-government voices get disproportionate access to the media and an easy ride. Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly are elected representatives, but their constant presence in the media and the failure to challenge them on their records or policies are directly distorting debate.

But that’s what oppositions are therefore, to question and to oppose (at least some of the time). It seems perverse to complain when they do precisely what they’re there to do. Backroom does make the point that the government could desist from attacking those who question it, and indeed they could. The level of heat in such exchanges is pretty appalling even if one accepts that there will be inevitably be heat. But there’s another point which is worth considering:

So of course, it’s harder for the government. If the economy turns around, emigration stops and employment goes up, the government has little to worry about.
However, if the picture is more complicated, if it’s “we’re nearly there”, then it’ll have a lot more trouble getting through the media bias emphasising problems, rather than solutions.

And so we get, I suspect, to the main point. That the reality is that in 2015 or 2016 when the government has to go before the electorate the likelihood, as many of us have long argued, is that ‘recovery’ will remain elusive. But you know, so what? If the picture is that unclear then by its own lights this government will have failed. It will not have brought the state and its citizens through the fire safely. And in that instance it will deserver everything it gets (bar perhaps the return to power of FF, though the functional difference will be minimal).

In a way this Backroom piece is interesting because it suggests that the government is waking up to the fact that the situation in 2016 may be little different – at ground level, from the electorate’s point of view – to that in 2013. That has obvious political ramifications. But it also has implications for the shape of Irish politics subsequently.
No recovery in 2015? Then where will the electorate go? Hardly to this government.

Dermot Morgan February 28, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.

Died fifteen years ago today.



If thy social policy offend thee… well discontinue it… February 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…it really is getting to a point of one being unable to make it up with this government.

Locked out February 27, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in media, Trade Unions.


Perhaps it will get a proper airing later in the year

Austerity: Unintended consequences… February 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.

In a way the events in Italy are remarkable. A genuine slap in the face to the orthodoxy and from a (relatively) unexpected quarter. As the Guardian notes, one A. Merkel was counting on relative calm on the European front in the run up to her own election contest, but all changed and changed, well, quite a lot.

That said, this gave me pause for thought.

Both Berlusconi and Grillo have been harshly critical of the Germans, decried Monti’s austerity packages, and have raised questions as to whether Italy, the eurozone’s third biggest economy, should remain in the single currency. Grillo has called for a referendum on the matter.

Has the Commission and ECB boxed too clever by half on all this with austerity? Because it’s beginning to look as if – even apart from the dubious merits of that approach, it may be generating significant dissent against aspects of the European project.

Still. Why should that be such a surprise? If the policy adhered to by the orthodoxy is incorrect, and demonstrably so – to the extent that the IMF itself has found evidence of same, why should one credit them with any competence at all in regard to being able to keep the broader show on the road?

And no surprise at all at the level of populations seeing nothing in the prospect of “austerity” as a near permanent fixture in their lives.

A New Track From the Replacements February 27, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
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Might be of interest to some of you …

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