Brendan Keenan: 'We have no reason to be smug when it comes to not talking about things'
To quote you know who; despite everything, it is still not clear whether this is the end of the Brexit business, the beginning of the end or, heaven...
To quote you know who; despite everything, it is still not clear whether this is the end of the Brexit business, the beginning of the end or, heaven...
THAT was it right enough: 2018 - the year of living dangerously. And next year could be the year when many of those dangers crystallise.
HERE'S one to try over the mince pies: what is the population of the Republic? After getting it embarrassingly wrong myself, I have tried it on...
Deeds, not words. For all the talk, the Shannon remains undrained (unless perhaps to water Dublin). And the top rate of tax starts below average earnings.
Are the Titans trembling? The sound of wheels turning can be heard in politics and social mores, but there are also strange whirrings in the...
You daren't take your eye off the ball these days.
We financial journalists know our place. We tip our metaphorical caps to the sports writers, with their legions of avid readers. We defer to the political correspondents' knowledge of the corridors of power. But we don't mind - because we do the important stuff.
The new Garda Commissioner is inevitably on a very steep learning curve, but there is one area in which Mr Harris has all the necessary expertise - the endless search for money. In fact, he may find his new job easier in that regard, but very, very different.
If you really want to get on these days, you need a catchy word or phrase. Something like 'pre-distribution' - a clever play on the more common redistribution. It was coined by Yale University economist Jacob Hacker back in 2011 and has become quite the thing among governments and social economists. This is not to decry the merits of Dr Hacker's insights - quite the reverse. Pre-...
Don't leave it all to the minister. That is a bad Irish habit. Why not try a bit of anti-cyclical policymaking in the safety and comfort of your own home?
It's enough to make you weep, really. This month, the all-island integrated electricity market is due to come into operation but, like everything else, under the darkening shadow of Brexit.
A retired Department of Finance official once paraphrased the old Schleswig-Holstein joke to me this way: "Only three people understood the...
We do like to think of ourselves as something special: even if we are not always as special as we think we are. But there is no doubt that Ireland does tend to find itself in special positions in...
Guess what was the headline on the new IMF report on global debt? 'Saving for a Rainy Day', that's what. Former minister for finance Michael Noonan might be tickled by the similarity to his 'rainy...
I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member, Groucho Marx famously said. Something similar might perhaps apply to Ireland's membership of the so-called 'Hanseatic league' of...
If you want some early Christmas cheer, try the new report on the economy from Goodbody Stockbrokers. It is hard not to say, "Ho-ho-ho!"
Maybe it is time to start thinking about life after a soft Brexit. It would not be nearly as nasty and brutish as a hard one, but it would still be a peculiar, difficult arrangement beset with unknowns - known and unknown alike.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is something very EU about the Irish backstop. Much of the Union's development has been built on the method of establishing an economic reality in the belief that the politics, however difficult, are bound to follow.
It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him. There has never been a pithier description of the British class system than George Bernard Shaw's in 'Pygmalion'. But what of the Irish class system - if indeed there is one?
During the depths of the crash, before the bailout, rumours swept the country that the Central Bank was printing punts in its Sandyford mint. Like many others, probably, I met a man who'd met a man who'd seen them.
HOW very odd. There was a huge fuss and to-do in Britain recently for - not a wedding, or a funeral, or a birthday - but the anniversary of the National Health Service. Does any other country have a national commemoration for the creation of its health system?
OVERHEATING? Economists, trying to be helpful, will tell you that, while there is a business cycle, it is not possible to say where it is at any particular time. In the case of a small, open, distorted economy like Ireland's, it is really, really not possible.
So, it's farewell tax cuts, then. And good riddance.
'Lyrics by Paschal Donohoe; to a traditional tune.' That might be a good label for the seasonal entertainment that is the summer economic statement. There are a lot of fine words in this year's production, but many echoes of years gone by.
The European Union is fundamentally a political project. This is the explanation commonly given when the economics behind policy look dubious, and certainly it is true. Behind it lies the idea that politics can override economics - but that presumes the politics work.
They've come up with a wizard idea in Britain to ease the pressure on GPs' surgeries and A&E units. Paramedics in their estate car ambulances will be trained and authorised to write prescriptions for people with everyday ailments in their own homes, with only a visit to the chemist required.
Never repeat yourself, has always been my motto. Well, not for a month or so anyway. But events and complications compel a quick return to last week's musings on the vexed question of GDP and other statistics.
It's not much use saying the Emperor has no clothes, if you are then going to hold up his non-existent gilded coat for our admiration. Yet that is the situation in which our statisticians and economic commentators find themselves.
Not since 'soft landing' has a phrase caused so much trouble as 'hard border'. One thing they have in common is that they have no precise meaning, so anyone can interpret them as they see fit.
VACANCY. Due to the imminent retirement of the present incumbent, applications are invited for the position of leader of the Awkward Squad in the European Union Project.
Winter came, with a vengeance, but the winter of discontent never did. In another prediction which went awry, the industrial relations unrest which might have been expected to follow such a period of austerity failed to materialise.
At least the Central Bank is not accusing Michael Fingleton of destroying Irish journalism. That was the charge made by a colleague who said the news business was finished once journalists were able to get mortgages.
How's poor old Ireland, and how does she stand? asks Napper Tandy in the old song. Well, not so poor any more, Napper, but the second part of your question is a bit tricky.
I won't name the small town, because there are many others just like it. Suffice it to say that it is in Leinster - indeed in what might be regarded as the outer limits of Dublin commuting. Yet it was a shock to see the number of empty buildings in its centre.
So now it's the fault of GDP. The inadequacies of gross domestic product are being blamed for everything from Donald Trump's election to the Brexit vote.
Maps, says Professor Jerry Brotton in his 'History of the World in Twelve Maps', "offer a proposal about the world, rather than just a reflection of it".
The word from the West Wing gets worse by the week, and the Dow Jones index goes above 25,000. Whatever happened to political risk?
Like many youngsters, I had a notion to be a pilot; until a preliminary test found I had the manual dexterity of a turtle. Had I done better, I might have gone on some airline's expensive training course, although not everyone made it through that.
Remember Athenry! The battle over the Apple data centre, like conventional battles of the past, is about matters of enormous consequence for the country. Whether for good or ill, depends on what we make of the aftermath.
Keynes called it "animal spirits", which seems an appropriate word during a bubble. Then there is "confidence", which is what keeps a bubble blowing. When there is a bust, "uncertainty", follows - which is what we have now.
As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to kill a cat, and choking it with cream, while apparently kinder, may not be the most effective.
Statistics are slippery things. Even when they are correct, they can cause trouble, and few are as slippery as those concerning 'precarious' work. Perhaps those Italians campaigning for a change were right to invent a patron saint, San Precario, to help their cause.
Donald Trump goes back farther than I thought. I don't mean the man but the manner - that chilling combination of bombast, bullying and bluster. It was all on view in an interview shown recently about his first great achievement, the building of the Trump Tower in New York.
More bad news. The fertility rate has fallen to 1.9 children per female, which is less than the 2.1 average needed to keep the population stable.
Whatever happened to that four billion euro? This was the amount of money - actually a bit more - which Irish citizens saved in the last three years as interest rates on the national debt and tumbled, compared with what they thought they would pay.
Things are happening that never used to happen before, to misquote John B Keane. In the wake of the Great Recession, some of the laws of economics, as well as of politics, appear to be breaking down.
If only there was a simple formula for predicting market crashes, we'd all get rich. (Well, those who knew it would). But there isn't. Except that, just maybe, there might be when it comes to housing.
The comment of 19th century foreign minister Lord Palmerston, that Britain had no friends, only interests, neatly sums up the nature of international relations; and not just for great imperial powers.
Don't stray from the path; never eat a windfall. Granny's warning in Neil Jordan's movie 'The Company of Wolves' neatly sums up the fiscal advice proffered to government, but as usual the Little Red Riding Hoods of Kildare Street seem in no mood to heed it.
THOSE 2014 commemorations for the centenary of the start of the Great War threw up a surprising analysis. As those around the Kaiser argued for peace or war, there was no clear answer to what Britain would do. The reason? London was preoccupied with Ireland.
DESPITE all the algorithms, alphas, betas and the rest, by which financial markets make their impenetrable way, currency movements remain a mystery.
IT is reported that Sean MacBride, as Foreign Affairs Minister, was reluctant to accept US dollars under the post-war Marshall plan unless the USA made explicit its opposition to the partition of Ireland.
MAYBE they should have rung the church bells. Just about now, the economy will regain the peaks reached in 2007. But then again, maybe they shouldn't.
THE Italian politician Cavour is credited with the observation that the art of taxation is to pluck the maximum amount of feathers with the minimum amount of hissing.
Poor old John Maynard Keynes. Not only do his successors still argue about what he meant, and whether he was right, the rest of us remember him, if at all, for two things: in the long run we are all dead, and in the 2000s work will have been all but abolished.
COMING up to Budget time, my father, like many publicans, would buy in as much extra stock as the Revenue would allow, in the sure and certain knowledge that the inevitable rise in taxes would allow him a little extra profit.
BREXIT, Trump and now Macron. Throw in Jeremy Corbyn as well, if you like. But of all the popular uprisings, the French one is surely the most astonishing.
FOOL'S gold, they used to call it. Many an old Western ended with the guy in the black hat discovering that the stolen poke contained, not the precious metal but the worthless lookalike (some kind of pyrites I believe).
GOOD luck or good judgment? Or did we get by with a little help from our friends? As the Irish economy continues to amaze, the question of how and why it recovered seems as elusive as ever.
ANY faint hopes that the new Pay Commission might find new ways of setting public sector pay were pretty firmly dashed with its report. To be fair, changing the methodology was not really in its remit, but it does not seem to be in anyone else's either.
A theme in many of the myriad books written about the Great Recession and the political upheavals which have followed, is that there was some kind of fundamental break in the global economy in the 1970s.
EVERYONE else is daydreaming, so why shouldn't I? Just what would the world have to look like for a majority in Northern Ireland to vote to leave the UK and join the Irish Republic and, automatically, the EU?
THE dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone are casting their shadows over the salons of Brussels, but there is another quarrel whose integrity is almost as long-lasting - that over public sector pay.
THERE can be no doubt that something is going on, as the candidates of the great parties of France are eliminated in the presidential election and enthusiastic young crowds turn out for the extreme left candidate Jean-Luc Mélechon, who misses out in the vote by less than2pc .
No political risk. Back in the days of the two-and-a-half-party system, that was a big selling point for the Treasury Management Agency when flogging government bonds. No matter how our elections went, there was nothing for our creditors to worry about.
THE gist of 'The Undoing Project', the latest book from Michael Lewis ('Liar's Poker', 'The Big Short') is that people don't think the way they think they think.
READING the latest quarterly report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the words of veteran US Congressman Barney Frank came to mind.
THE Irish Question is very difficult, the spoof history of Britain, '1066 And All That', opined. Every time the English find the answer, the Irish change the question.
A glimpse of something which would otherwise be very difficult to capture arrived courtesy of the German business group Ifo. It shows what happens when the retirement age is cut - in this case to 63 years.
WHATEVER happened to the misery index? Once upon a time a combination of inflation, unemployment and growth seemed to provide a reliable indicator of a government's popularity.
Occasionally, when I want to refresh my memory as to how English can be written - and on financial matters too - I dip into Walter Bagehot's 'Lombard Street'.
Ever since we were in the sty together, I have had an interest in that other little Pig, Portugal. Not that Portugal is all that small (10.5 million people) but we shared a common fate.
WE have been warned. At a conference last year, experts from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said international health statistics must be interpreted with care. It was dangerous to draw lessons, they said, and worse to devise policies "at a glance".
The Irish economy, like some plodders I'd rather not mention, just wouldn't make it on "Strictly." It always seems to be out of step.
IT is almost 30 years since French company Pernod Ricard bought whiskey-maker Irish Distillers and sales of Jameson are booming. Another overnight success.
AS well as pure folly, the most popular explanation for the insanity of the Great Credit Bubble is greed. There is a great deal of truth in that but there is another emotion which I thought at the time might have played a role. Fear.
There was some cheer for Irish business after British prime minister Theresa May's speech, as sterling rocketed to its biggest daily gain since at least 1998 to the benefit of Irish exporters and those competing with British imports.
THE thought occurs: would there have been a different reaction to that recent report on the implications of Brexit for Ireland, had it come from a UK Senate rather than the House of Lords?
Even the longest of lives must come to an end, but the business of government goes on forever. The three great issues to which TK Whitaker devoted his life remain with us. We can only wonder how much worse they would have been without him.
NEW Year, they tell us, is a time of hope - but there is a strange feeling in the air. For 2017, the dominant feeling is not hope, but foreboding - a good old Saxon word for fear of what the future may bring.
WHAT'S in a name? Quite a lot, it would seem, if the names in question are 'Cosmo' and 'Hermes' - the acronyms for the new and old models of the economy used by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
IT is difficult to find a direct connection between rising inequality in Britain and the anger which produced the Brexit vote, a learned professor said last week. Perhaps it is, but my goodness, it is tempting to try.
COULD it happen here? That was the question after the Brexit vote and, especially, the Trump victory. To which the answer might be: it already has. Like Tolstoy on marriages, every country shows its unhappiness in its own way.
JUST now, I feel a bit like the guinea-pig I recently wrote about in that experiment, faced with 19 people denying the blindingly obvious and wondering if he can possibly be right. I am talking, of course, about the Arlene Foster question.
There are almost as many explanations for Donald Trump's election victory as there are votes in the US electoral college. One of the less obvious ones, which has history on its side, is that Mr Trump is part of the 'fat tail' of the global financial crisis.
HAS it come to this already? The latest Exchequer returns on the public finances drew warnings from analysts that the borrowing targets this year might not be achieved.
To paraphrase golfer Ben Hogan, if it seems obvious, you're probably wrong. That could be the mantra of the fashionable subject of behavioural economics - to an extent that is beginning to dismay some of its proponents as they venture further into this looking-glass world.
A figure which always surprises is the one which says Irish households have €100bn (that's not a misprint) on deposit in the banks. Aren't we all supposed to be bust?
One good thing to be said about this week's Budget: it made a 97-year-old acquaintance of mine laugh. He had just been told that his pension would go up by a fiver a week, but not until March. When you're that age, and not very well, that's funny.
ONE of life's little pleasures is watching for glimpses of my younger self in episodes of RTE's 'Reeling in the Years'. In a recent one covering 1974, I knew I would not see myself, but I knew exactly where I was.
ON account of misreading the timetable, I spent part of my holiday sitting in a small Italian station waiting for a train that was not running.
NOW class, let's get back to the basics. First, the annual Budget cannot be an annual exercise in tax cutting. Not unless you believe in a smaller state and, as we know, absolutely nobody believes in that.
AMID the encircling gloom, the employment figures continue to shine. So much statistical fog has descended on GDP, wealth, and even government finances, that it is worth remembering that the jobs data is among the more reliable.
THIS will be a Budget like no other - irrespective of who gets it through, or when exactly. Not even 1981-82, when there were three Budgets, from different governments, will quite compare. It is all about politics, then and now. The minority administrations of Charles Haughey and Garrett FitzGerald failed in efforts to get TDs who were not in the government to support their Budgets. Now, the efforts concentrate on Independents who are inside the Cabinet tent.
William or James; Wellington or Napoleon; King or Kaiser? The story of Ireland often seems to be that of a long-suffering pawn caught in the struggles of great powers. It feels a bit like that again.
AS they themselves would say, the Americans have skin in this game. Tens of billions of dollars worth of skin. But there may also be genuine puzzlement on the other side of the Atlantic about the ramifications of EU state aid rules in the wake of the Apple ruling.
WELL, that didn't take long. Just the other week, the Central Bank published data showing that private sector debt as a percentage of GDP had fallen by almost a quarter. Leprechaun alert!
The most distressful country that ever yet was seen. Even a brief acquaintance with school history - when there used to be school history - would be enough to realise that Ireland's story was a sad one.
It's regime change, as well as a change of address, at the Central Bank - but how different will things be? They are fitting out the new headquarters down by the docks but fitting out a new mindset is a more challenging affair.
I see they're still working on Charlie McCreevy's "individualisation" of tax allowances, 15 years on. When he brought it in, as a response to a Supreme Court ruling, I was among the small minority who thought it was fairer that one person should pay more tax than two people earning the same amount of money between them.
A funny thing happened on the way to the merger of carmakers Daimler-Benz and Chrysler in 1998. When the highly profitable German company re-filed its accounts in line with the rules of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, it posted a loss. Nothing else had changed, there was no jiggery-pokey; just accountancy.
I moved from Belfast to Bray in 1976 and remember following the furniture van containing all my worldly goods, ready to present a list of them to Irish Customs.
'I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire," Winston Churchill told the US Congress in a famous speech. How much more important, then, not to become the Queen's First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the United Kingdom?
SOMETHING else was happening in Europe last week as well as the UK referendum to decide the future of Britain in the EU, Ireland in the EU, and perhaps of the EU itself.
The Irish government's task is just about the only thing which is clear after the map of Europe was dramatically redrawn,
RARELY has the case been put so bluntly. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has made it plain that they will not co-operate with the upgrading of the force's equipment unless their pay claims were dealt with first.
Asworthless as a Continental. Americans still say that, apparently, although few may realise they are talking about the paper dollars printed to pay for the War of Independence more than 200 years ago.
AFTER all this time, I think I am entitled to a little self-indulgence. And so we come to "Water quality and recreational angling demand in Ireland", published in the 'Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism'.
If economics is the science of choices, politics may be said to be the science (or art) of making choices. In which case, the housing crisis poses the ultimate political challenge.
THE winter of our discontent. The torrent of Shakespeare to commemorate his 400th anniversary is full of reminders of how many of his phrases have come down the centuries into everyday use .
The more things change, the more they stay the same, someone once wisely said. The agreement to support - up to a point - a minority government led by Fine Gael is indeed a historic change. The contents of what it intends to do look wearily familiar.
THE politicians were off playing game of thrones, and the voice of the mandarin was heard in the land. That at least is one interpretation of last week's Spring statement on the budget outlook.
Green shoots are at last appearing in the garden, after another cold spring caused by global warming. Pottering among the statistics shows sturdy plants in the economy as well, but worries about the climate.
Back in the Sixties, Irish management sucked. And if it does not suck quite so badly today, a lot of credit must go to Ivor Kenny, founder of the Irish Management Institute,who died last week at the age of 85.
IT sounds like the worst kind of upper-class snobbery and condescension: British prime minister Stanley Baldwin's comment that the challenge was not so much making the world safe for democracy, but the more difficult one of making democracy safe for the world.