Good news from Moody’s, bad news from the National Competitiveness Council

Ratings agency praises the economy; NCC warns we are returning to bad old ways

Moody’s sees Ireland, bar international disasters, running growth rates for the foreseeable future equal to double the European average. Photograph: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Moody’s sees Ireland, bar international disasters, running growth rates for the foreseeable future equal to double the European average. Photograph: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:40

Yesterday’s report from ratings agency Moody’s on the Irish economy held little that would raise an eyebrow for a domestic observer of how Ireland is doing.

The agency, which earlier this year raised Ireland’s rating by two notches to Baa1 with a “stable outlook”, having raised the rating six months’ earlier to Baa3, is very gung ho about the potential for economic growth, seeing Ireland, bar international disasters, running growth rates for the foreseeable future equal to double the European average.

That the agency kept Ireland’s bonds on junk status for so long after the bust was for a long time a matter of irritation for the National Treasury Management Agency. But just as Ireland’s economy has swung round, so too has the view from Moody’s.

It even has some positive noises to make about the banks, saying they are returning to profitability, and that the increase in employment and in property prices will help the banks deal with the mortgage loan mess that they are all trying to manage.

But as if to prove that economics really is the dismal science, we now have a report from the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) warning that, after a period of competitiveness gains that commenced in 2008, there are now worrying signs that we are returning to our bad old ways.

Lest any of our readers have recently arrived from Mars, what happened in 2008 was that the economy collapsed and there was a massive leap in the number of businesses going bust and laying workers off. This, unsurprisingly, created downward pressure on labour and other costs.

Now that even Moody’s is signalling that the Irish economy looks set to pick up again, the numbers employed to grow, and unemployed to fall, the NCC is worried that events may take a bad turn.

Oh, for the good old days....

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