Saturday 18 November 2017

TH€ PUNT: New research gig for Kinsella

Dr Stephen Kinsella
Dr Stephen Kinsella

THE Punt is delighted to see that UL-based economist Stephen Kinsella, who also happens to be our colleague on the Irish Independent opinion pages, has landed a plum research gig to look at what really happened in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Dr Kinsella has secured some €650,000 of research funding for a three-year project to explore the issues, including through collaboration with economists outside Ireland.

He'll be looking in particular at trying to understand the connections between debt and demography in Europe.

It's a timely piece of work, in particular given Europe's rapidly ageing population, but also how that squares with the growing evidence that younger people are the ones being locked out of the workforce as a result of the debt crisis.

The funding is a coup for both Stephen Kinsella and the Kemmy School of Business at UL which will put Limerick at the heart of a much wider community of researchers.

Among the latter will be none other than Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and his Institute for New Economic Thinking in New York, so there is nothing half-hearted about the project.

Indeed, the government of Iceland is already committed to looking at adapting its policies as the results of the research become known.

The Punt hopes copies of the reports find their way on to the desks of Limerick's other economic gurus – the finance minister Michael Noonan and his chief of staff at the Department of Finance John Moran.

Hard sell for insolvency body

THE new personal insolvency service, although under the auspices of the Department of Justice which has its own press office, is on the hunt for advice to help sell itself to the public.

The body – set up to help people overburdened by debt come to reasonable arrangements with creditors – has tendered for specialist communications advice in a bid to ensure its message is getting out.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the scheme is about giving people who are crippled by debt a chance to get back into the black in a fair and open fashion.

It's key that those who are struggling are aware of its presence and what it promises to do.

But The Punt also hopes that whoever steps up and gets the job can provide the public with regular information on the number of people using the new service on a frequent basis, and maintain the transparency that at times is sorely lacking in Irish public life.

Furman bags White house job

JASON Furman has been selected as the new chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, replacing Princeton professor Alan Krueger who must return to the university or lose his tenure.

Mr Furman looks like the all-American golden boy; he has a Doctorate in Economics from Harvard and a Masters from the London School of Economics, and is married with two kids. But it is his policies that make him really interesting.

Mr Furman has heaped praise on US supermarket giant WalMart, calling the retail chain a "progressive success story."

He says that the cost savings the company provides to consumers far outweigh the negatives it is accused of, like low wages. A polar-opposite view to that of Irish policy-makers, who for years sought to protect the interests of smaller 'mom and pop' corner stores through the Groceries Order.

The Punt is concerned about the appointment of a man who approves of a much-criticised company primarily because its products are cheaper.

Still, we note that he was heavily involved in Obama's healthcare reform plan, and an important player in the warnings about the US fiscal cliff, that hurricane of simultaneously-applied tax hikes and spending cuts that the US government sought to introduce at the beginning of this year in one fell swoop.

The Punt expects good things.

Irish Independent

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