Irish Business & Society Blog Latest Blog Entries en Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:19:59 GMT 30 Affino 5 RSS Generator Have manifesto promises become government commitments? <div id="Text11" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Have manifesto promises become government commitments?</strong></p> <p>There was much on openness and fighting white-collar crime in the parties&rsquo; manifestos &ndash; but where are they in the programme for government? &nbsp;See <a href="" target="_blank">Coalition plans fall short of pre-election promises</a> (<em>Irish Times</em>, 22nd February, 2011) for more.</p></div> Tue, 22 Mar 2011 07:57:00 +0000 Should government policies keep business on tight rein? <div id="Text12" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Should government policies keep business on tight rein?</strong></p> <p>Writing in today&rsquo;s <em>Irish Times</em>, as editors, we analyse the positions of the parties (Fianna F&aacute;il, Fine Gael, Green Party, Labour and Sinn F&eacute;in) on a number of issues at the intersections of business and society: white-collar crime; whistleblowing; corporate governance; strategic State enterprises; running government as a business; and partnership.</p> <p>By way of conclusion, we note: "What we need to remind ourselves in all of this is that business exists at the pleasure of society; business exists to serve society and not the other way around. It would behove the parties, and, more particularly, our next government, to keep this in mind and to ensure that they frame their policies accordingly. It is time we stopped to ask what we expect of business and to demand that business recognise its place <em><strong>in</strong></em> society."</p> <p>Click <a href="">here</a> to access the article and associated comments.</p></div> Mon, 21 Feb 2011 11:44:00 +0000 Can Europe be saved? <div id="Text13" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Can Europe be saved?</strong></p> <p>Writing in <em>The New York Times</em>, Prof. Paul Krugman asks the question: <a href="" target="_blank">Can Europe be saved?</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;In the article, he covers the road to the euro, the (uneasy) case for monetary union, the euphoria following the creation of the euro and the crisis that has since engulfed us, and he rounds out with four possible plot lines. &nbsp;He sees the &rsquo;toughing it out&rsquo; plot line as the one currently in play. &nbsp;The other three are: debt restructuring; full Argentina; and revived Europeanism.</p></div> Mon, 17 Jan 2011 10:40:00 +0000 Should economist and other social scientists have to disclose their interests? <div id="Text14" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p>The American Economic Association is considering adopting a code of ethics for economists at its annual meeting this week. The main concern seems to be that economists should disclose any links or interests that put their commentary in context &nbsp;(<a title="(more on this from Bloomberg here)" href=""></a>.</p> <p>Perhaps in a small country like Ireland we are in greater need of such rules for all that comment on business and society. Maybe we need &nbsp;a register of interests for all academics commenting on public policy. Of course many economists that comment so frequently in the media are employed by banks and other commercial interests that perhaps make it more an issue for journalistic ethics than academic ones. However the fact that the American Economics Association is considering such a move shows the general need for institutions that previously could take the public&rsquo;s respect for granted to be more accountable and transparent. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> </div> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 21:34:00 +0000 From an EU point of view the Irish 'bailout' is disappointment too <div id="Text15" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><em>Handelsblatt</em>, &nbsp;the influential German business paper, carries a piece by economist &nbsp;Barry Eichengreen, pointing out the disappointing nature of the EU&rsquo;s involvement in the Irish Bailout. Kevin O&rsquo;Rourke [no relation as far as I know] provides an English language translation over at <a href=""></a>&nbsp;</p></div> Wed, 01 Dec 2010 13:36:00 +0000 What do banks contribute to society? <div id="Text16" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>What do banks contribute to society?</strong></p> <p>John Cassidy, writing in <em>The New Yorker</em>, asks <a href="">What Good Is Wall Street?</a>&nbsp; In the course of this questioning article, Cassidy refers to Lord Turner, Chairman of the UK&rsquo;s Financial Services Authority, who described much of what happens in financial centres, such as Wall Street, as &ldquo;<a href="">socially useless</a> activity&rdquo;.&nbsp; He also interviews Dr. Paul Woolley, a former investment banker who has endowed the <a href="">Woolley Centre for the Study of Capital Market Dysfunctionality</a> at the London School of Economics. Woolley asks: &ldquo;Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it&rsquo;s just a utility, like sewage or gas? &hellip; There was a presumption that financial innovation is socially valuable. The first thing I discovered was that it wasn&rsquo;t backed by any empirical evidence. There&rsquo;s almost none.&rdquo;</p> <p>All in all, the question has to be asked, what do banks contribute to society?&nbsp; Do banks exist at the pleasure of and to serve the interests of society?&nbsp; Or do banks exist to transfer substantial wealth to bankers and financiers, society be damned?</p></div> Tue, 30 Nov 2010 12:30:00 +0000 Should Ireland leave the euro? <div id="Text17" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Should Ireland leave the euro?</strong></p> <p>There has been some talk about Ireland, and other financially troubled euro zone countries, leaving the euro.&nbsp; But what would it mean, in practice, if Ireland were to leave?&nbsp; Putting aside the theoretical attractions, what would exiting mean in practice?&nbsp; Read <a href="">Leaving the euro: How would it work?</a> for some thoughts on what would be involved.</p></div> Thu, 25 Nov 2010 15:09:00 +0000 A Plan to Take us Back to 2006! Any ideas to take us forward? <div id="Text18" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p>The long-awaited Irish government four year recovery plan was published yesterday . It is available at <a href=""></a></p> <p>In my view, &nbsp;there are some necessary and &nbsp;good measures in the plan: the promise of a property tax, the increase in the carbon tax and a reduction of tax relief on pensions to the standard rate.</p> <p>However, the plan is disappointing, even given fairly low expectations of this government. Brian Cowen actually captured the essential problem: in selling the plan he declared we must go back before we can go forward and his vision for the future seems to 2006!</p> <p>There is no plan to deal with our main problem of the banks, there is little in the plan to encourage growth but a lot to harm it and there is no sense of fairness that might address some the structural problems in the economy. The delayed introduction of the property tax until 2012&nbsp; and then at a tentative level of &euro;100 per house is typical &ndash; presumably stamp duty will remain in place at least until then with the property market held stagnant &nbsp;in uncertainty.</p> <p>Higher education fees are back but there is no wealth test for higher education grants. New public servants have their salaries cut by 10% but salaries for Ministers, TDs and Senators remain the same. The grant per child to schools is reduced while private education remains subsidised.&nbsp;</p> <p>We don&rsquo;t need ideas that take us back we need a plan to take us forward. Any ideas?</p></div> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 18:06:00 +0000 Why are those responsible for our crisis not paying? <div id="Text19" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Why are those responsible for our crisis not paying?</strong></p> <p>Isn&rsquo;t it interesting that it is the ordinary men and women of Ireland, for generations to come, who are going to be paying for the utter mess that has been created by our banking, regulatory and political leaders.&nbsp; We are hearing that the minimum wage is going to be hit, that social welfare is going to be hit and that taxation is going to be raised.&nbsp; Meanwhile, those responsible for creating and exacerbating the crisis are either still in situ or they have walked/are walking away with golden handshakes.&nbsp; What an utterly unfair situation!&nbsp; I can but assume that we are only experiencing isolated incidents of protest because people are so shell-shocked at the disaster that has been wrought on them by those who were paid significant monies to act with prudence and not ruin their lives.&nbsp; When will we see justice?&nbsp; When will those responsible be brought to account?&nbsp; How can we possibly move forward without justice being seen to be done?</p></div> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 08:49:00 +0000 What will it take to save Ireland? <div id="Text110" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>What will it take to save Ireland?</strong></p> <p>With the Governor of the Central Bank, Prof. Patrick Honohan, saying that he expects the talks now underway between the government, the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF to result in a loan offer to Ireland, the question still remains as to whether Ireland should accept a bailout or not.</p> <p>In an editorial, <em><a href="">The New York Times</a></em> (18<sup>th</sup> November, 2010) proffers: &ldquo;What Ireland needs more than anything is a plan to restructure its banks&rsquo; unsustainable debt, convincing creditors to take a discount and finally bear part of their own financial losses.&nbsp; Even that is not guaranteed to bring Ireland back from the brink. The economy is still suffering from the aftermath of the recession. Still, removing this liability would go a substantial way to restore its public finances. What is absolutely certain is that a solution that does not cut this debt burden is no solution at all.&rdquo;</p> <p><em><a href="">The New York Times</a></em> (17<sup>th</sup> November, 2010) raised a couple of questions: What choices would Ireland have if we don&rsquo;t agree to a bailout?&nbsp; Is there a case to be made that the country should resist a bailout?&nbsp; The &lsquo;Room for Debate&rsquo; section presents five different views to the question: Should Ireland accept a bailout?</p> </div> Thu, 18 Nov 2010 12:52:00 +0000 Why are whistleblowers still not protected in Ireland? <div id="Text111" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Why are whistleblowers still not protected in Ireland?</strong></p> <p>As we reflect on what is currently happening, why do we still not have statutory protections in place for whistleblowers?&nbsp; (See the chapter by William Kingston in <em>Irish Business &amp; Society</em>, where he discusses whistleblowing in the public sector, pp.122-3.)</p> <p>If such protections had been in place, would we now be dealing with a quite different situation than the one we are in?&nbsp; Who holds those in charge to account?&nbsp; And where is the transparency of that accounting in practice?&nbsp; Ultimately, it&rsquo;s supposed to be boards, in both the public and private sectors, to whom managements are accountable on behalf of the public/shareholders, but we&rsquo;ve seen just how cosy boards and managements can become and with what effects.&nbsp; For example, the socialisation of the private sector&rsquo;s mistakes has had enormously damaging consequences for society as a whole; the banks&rsquo; failure to recognise the wider stake-holding community has effectively bankrupted the state.&nbsp; Thus, if the risk of failure has ceased to exist for certain sections of the business community, namely the banks or their bondholders, how can we be sure that the current crisis is not just the start of a long cycle of banking crises, in which vast amounts of national treasure will be transferred from public ownership to private ownership?</p> <p>Equally, is it right that the weight of an organisation, and the financial resources at its disposal, are used to silence those who dare to question wrongdoing?&nbsp; Is it right that those in charge should be able to use organisational resources to silence whistelblowers?&nbsp; After all, the resources used to silence whistleblowers are effectively reflected in (a) higher taxes to finance public sector organisations and/or monies being diverted from areas on which they should rightly be spent and (b) higher prices paid by customers and/or lower wages for employees and/or lower returns for shareholders in the case of private sector organisations.</p> <p>In light of the socialised losses we are now enduring over the actions of private and public sector leaders, can we afford not to have protections in place for those brave enough to call wrongdoers to account?</p></div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 17:55:00 +0000 Should Ireland opt for an EU bailout? <div id="Text112" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Should Ireland opt for an EU bailout?</strong></p> <p>European Council President, Herman Van Pompuy, today stated &lsquo;we&rsquo;re in a survival crisis&rsquo; and added: &lsquo;We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don&rsquo;t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union&rsquo;.</p> <p>So, should we go for an EU bailout? For some thoughts on this question, see Megan Greene of The Economist Intelligence Unit,&nbsp;Prof. Constantin Gurdgiev of TCD, and Se&aacute;n Murphy of Chambers Ireland, who appeared on the November 15th edition of RTE&rsquo;s <em>The Frontline</em>&nbsp;(<a href=""></a>).&nbsp; Also see responses to the <em>Irish Times</em>&nbsp;&rsquo;Question of the Day&rsquo; for November 16th, 2010, at&nbsp;<a href=";pollid=9608">;pollid=9608</a>.</p> <p>Our government is saying that we are not applying for aid from any source.&nbsp; But, taking our government at its word, are we being effectively pressured into taking a hit for the euro and the EU?&nbsp; And at what potential cost to our sovereignty?&nbsp; With talk from Van Pompuy about a &lsquo;survival crisis&rsquo;, are we looking at a situation where the EU will call the shots or are we now in a stronger position, given our current sovereign choice to request aid or not, where we can hold out for the best outcome in terms of the aid package we receive and the terms of that aid?&nbsp; Are we looking at compromise, where each side will give away something, but not arrive at what might be an optimal solution?&nbsp; Or is there room for a solution that adds value for all concerned, what&rsquo;s called an integrative solution in negotiate speak?&nbsp; And what might that solution be?</p> </div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 17:22:00 +0000 Is business experience needed to run a country? <div id="Text113" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Is business experience needed to run a country?</strong></p> <p>An interesting question was asked of the Donegal by-election candidates in last night&rsquo;s edition of RTE television&rsquo;s <em>The Frontline </em>(<a href=""></a> - starts at 0:51:55): what business experience do you have to run the country?</p> <p>This question itself raises some interesting questions: Is business experience necessary to run a country?&nbsp; If so, what sort of experience is good?&nbsp; And what experience could we do without?&nbsp; Why is business experience being valued more than other experience?&nbsp; Is a country a business or is it quite a different entity?</p> <p>Also, what kind of skills do our political elite need to run a country that they so clearly lacked over the past decade?&nbsp; Getting elected is one thing, but being able to competently engage in policy making is something else &ndash; something that appears to have been sorely lacking in Ireland recently.</p></div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:31:00 +0000 What can Ireland do to build a sustainable economy moving forward? <div id="Text114" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>What can Ireland do to build a sustainable economy moving forward?</strong></p> <p>Craig Barrett, ex Intel Chairman, was leading a visit to Ireland of US firms keen to invest in the next wave of Irish tech companies. (See: <a href=""></a>.&nbsp; Also listen to extended interview:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>.)&nbsp; Barrett noted that Ireland was not as attractive to inward investors today as it was back in the late 1980s when Intel were deciding where in Europe to build a manufacturing plant.&nbsp; He noted that our corporate tax rate was no longer the strong draw that it once was, what with some countries now affording investors a zero percent rate.&nbsp; As he saw it, our biggest strength is our educated population and it is to ourselves that we should be looking to build the future and not rely so much on attracting investment from overseas.&nbsp; Barrett&rsquo;s observations raise a number of questions: What do we offer the international investor today that sets us apart from other inward investment locations?&nbsp; What strengths do we have and what can we do ourselves to build a sustainable economy moving forward?&nbsp; We put our eggs in a few baskets in the early 1970s as regards the type of inward investment on which to focus our limited financial resources (see the chapter by Donnelly in <em>Irish Business &amp; Society</em>).&nbsp; Though a gamble, it was a relatively successful one, contributing to increasing returns in the spatial location of production of electronics, pharamceuticals and medical technologies.&nbsp; What are we going to focus our limited financial resources on looking into the future?&nbsp; Alternative, green energies, for example?&nbsp; What other areas can we tap into that build on our strengths?&nbsp; Indeed, should we be investing in developing particular strengths or competencies that we currently don&rsquo;t have?</p></div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:29:00 +0000 Is Ireland's corporate tax rate at risk? <div id="Text115" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Is Ireland&rsquo;s corporate tax rate at risk?</strong></p> <p>Our EU partners have been rather unhappy about our low corporate tax rate, while multinational CEOs continue to stress the importance of our 12.5% corporate tax rate.&nbsp; (See the chapter by Donnelly in <em>Irish Business &amp; Society</em>, which alludes to the history of our corporate tax rate, a central plank of our industrial development policy since the 1950s).&nbsp; If we take the hit for Europe, and accept a bailout, will part of the price be an increase in our 12.5% corporate tax rate? Should we be ensuring that our low corporate tax rate is only available to those companies that create employment in the country and not to those who simply seek to funnel their profits through an unstaffed, ghost office?&nbsp; Would this help assuage our EU partners who are concerned that they are losing corporate tax revenues through this sort of tax arbitrage on the part of companies headquartered in their countries?</p></div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:27:00 +0000 Taking stock and looking to the futureā€¦ <div id="Text116" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><p><strong>Taking stock and looking to the future&hellip;</strong></p> <p>I&rsquo;m sure that, like me, you have been following commentary and discussion over the past number of weeks on the state of our nation&rsquo;s finances and, more recently, over the possibility of us having to go cap in hand to our EU partners to seek their financial aid.&nbsp; I&rsquo;m sure that, like me, you are utterly flabbergasted at how this whole sorry state of affairs has come about, you are at boiling point over how the once adored &lsquo;masters of the universe&rsquo; (i.e., our bankers) have brought us to our knees, and you are frustrated with our political &lsquo;leaders&rsquo; and how their decisions have us on the hook for billions and billions of euro through the bank guarantee.</p> <p>I am sensing the same sort of chastising going on of those who suggest that we need to learn from what has happened as went on of those who sought to caution us of the impending doom from the runaway property bubble.&nbsp; We are being told that what is done is done and there is little point in dwelling on the past.&nbsp; But, are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past if we don&rsquo;t take stock and learn from them?&nbsp; Are there vested interests at play in the talk of those not wanting us to re-visit and forensically trawl over that past to identify what went wrong and who was responsible/accountable for the decisions that have brought us to the brink?&nbsp; Decisions were made by both public and private sector leaders and they need to be held to account for those decisions.&nbsp; If there&rsquo;s to be no accountability, then what&rsquo;s the point in leaders being paid exorbitant salaries and benefits in the first place?</p> <p>Of course, taking stock does not mean ignoring the future.&nbsp; Rather, it means informing our decisions about the future.&nbsp; It means being honest with ourselves about where we are now, why we are where we are, and building a collective mind-set about where we want to be into the future and how we think we can get there.&nbsp; Building a collective mind-set does not mean ignoring criticism of the emerging mind-set, for no one has a crystal ball about the future, not even our beloved economists, as we tread our way into the future.&nbsp; We have the experience of the past to bolster us that, when faced with adversity, we made it.&nbsp; And we need this belief in ourselves that we can do it once again, albeit with the sense that what has brought us to our knees must never happen again.&nbsp; We must be careful of the words &lsquo;this time it&rsquo;s different&rsquo; and question any such harbinger!</p></div> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:20:00 +0000 Welcome <div id="Text117" style="clear:both; text-align:left"><h2 class="header2">On behalf of all those involved in this project examining Irish business and society, welcome to our website. We are very excited to have this blog up and running, and hope that it will stimulate some interesting debates on issues in relation to the research and findings contained within the book.</h2> <p>As the research of the authors involved in this project is ongoing, and as events surrounding the state of the Irish economy are occurring apace at the moment, we welcome comments, observations, criticisms, and even encouragement, from Ireland as well as from anyone reading this blog from across the globe. We hope the website provides you with a better understanding of the kind of work we do and how this is relevant to ongoing events in Ireland.</p> <p>The website will provide links to each of the authors&rsquo; own website and institutions for you to click on if you would like to know more about their own specialist fields of expertise. Additionally we will provide links to associations and organizations that we are members of or are associated with.</p> <p>If you would like to add this website as a link to your own website/blog please feel free to do so, and if you would like for us to link with your website please let us know. We will add to this site as time goes by, letting you know about developments in Irish politics, economics, and society in general. We will also keep readers updated on conferences and other special events that we will be running that are related to the book. For students using the book, our intention is that this website will provide a useful tool to supplement your textbook.</p> <p>Kindest Regards,</p> <p>The <em>Irish Business and Society</em> team</p></div> Thu, 28 Oct 2010 17:28:00 +0000