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Professor Richard Tol: This has confirmed my view of the ESRI -- it lacks critical mass

IT is mysterious what the ESRI have done. I have not heard anything from the body before and I have not heard anything since.

They did not tell me what they think is wrong with the report. They just decided to withdraw it.

Academic organisations are very peculiar organisations.

You have a bunch of very clever, very independent people and you can't just run them as if you would run a cookie factory.

I stand by everything in the report. Nobody has given me a reason why it is wrong.

The Berkeley Electronic Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, which was in the process of conducting the peer review of the study, had no problems with the conclusions.

We will never find out whether there was political interference.

We will never find out what really happened, whether there was a phone call from the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. We will never know because those things are not recorded on either side.

It may well be that people in the ESRI anticipated such a request from the minister.

It must have taken them by surprise and it is a strong conclusion. It is a pretty stark message. Their instinct must have been 'this is going to give trouble, let's distance ourselves from it' and that would have been an appropriate response, like 'this is early work . . .'

Instead they went a little bit over the top and I have been getting phone calls and emails all day and everybody wants to read the report. If you tell people that they cannot know something, then they want to know. This is the silliness on the ESRI's part, such strong overreaction attracts more attention to this. The standard analysis in reports like this is to compare the benefits if you are out of work to the take-home wages if you are in work.

This is just wrong.

If you go to work, you incur all sorts of extra costs like commuting, like you eat out more, you get more convenience meals, childcare is a big one. If you sit down and tot up how much money you are actually spending on work, it is quite a considerable amount. It should be part of the calculations.

That was never part of the ESRI calculations. I think it is an important question.

What has happened just confirms my view of the ESRI. The fact that they did not contact me. The fact that they think withdrawing the paper is a good strategy.

These things happen when institutes are smaller than they need to be; they don't have enough critical intellectual mass.

That is one of the problems.

How did I get on during my time in the ESRI? I left.

Professor Richard Tol is a professor of economics at the University of Sussex

Irish Independent