‘The euro is a project that resembles what was intended as Anglo Irish Bank’s headquarters.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

EU’s democratic and governance gaps are more worrying than its fiscal holes

Customers queue to use an ATM outside a bank  in Thessaloniki, Greece, yesterday. Photograph: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg

Greece needs debt relief, it has got nothing to do with morality or who deserves what

UK chancellor George Osborne is the latest politician trying to enshrine a balanced budget rule into national law. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Politics and the economy are a dangerous mix and remind us why supervision is needed

Banknotes worth 150 trillion Zimbabwean dollars. Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Zimbabwe may be a contrarian idea too far

 Klaus Masuch, Istvan Szekely and Ajai Chopra: neutral observers will probably conclude that the troika’s polices worked in Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The situation in Greece mirrors our own but its economy remains under serious threat

‘The debate over technology speaks to shifting economic structures whose implications we poorly understand.’ Robots manufactured by Spanish company Pal Robotics. Photograph: Peter Kneffel/EPA

Technologically disrupted workers need to reinvent themselves in self-employment.

US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen:  peppers her speeches with references to ‘equilibrium interest rates’. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ireland’s rate of growth is extraordinarily high by global economy standards

Bank of England governor Mark Carney: what he actually said was much more nuanced than the headlines suggested. Photograph: Gianluca Colla/Bloomberg

As a group, EU migrants to the UK go to work and when they do, they are more productive than the natives

British prime minister David Cameron at a parade to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day,  in London yesterday.   Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

If Britain leaves it may not be that big a deal, as the EU is a busted flush

‘It seems to be easier to cut public sector pay than to take on pensioners.’ Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Chris Johns: Government must tackle issue of unaffordable and indefensible benefits

“Free money is there to spend on infrastructure: it isn’t really borrowing, more an asset swap.” Photograph: Alan Betson

‘We want the low paid, eventually, to earn enough to pay some income taxes’

  The only institution capable of acting as an impartial judge between the Germans and the Greeks is the IMF which, sadly, has gone missing in action. Pictured: Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Nasty things will happen after a default but reinstating the drachma is not automatic

Our debate about tax is as incoherent as is the one in the UK; claims are made that often violate the basic principles of arithmetic

Former British PM John Major’s election victory of 25 yeas ago remains instructive

Syriza Party leader Alexis Tsipras: the Greeks have managed to pull off a remarkable trick. Photograph: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

It is not just Greece we have to worry about – the UK election is likely to lead to a brand new political landscape

 Jeremy Clarkson: the former Top Gear television presenter  is another member of the 1 per cent who get to walk away with most of the cash. The producer whom he allegedly assaulted is almost certainly not a member and probably will never be. Photograph: Koen Van Weel/EPA

Chief financial officers are being lured into technology far more than banking

Try to imagine what an executive of a tech or pharmaceutical company would think of a country with a Sinn Féin taxation system

Commentators focused on fact that Goldman Sachs was responsible for financial crisis

One or two Nowcasting models are saying Europe is actually growing faster than the US. Photograph: Thinkstock

|Nowcasting suggests Europe is doing better than thought but the US has slowed

The rise of robots will challenge many of our beliefs, not least our conviction that a good education is the best route towards prosperity. Photograph: Michael Nelson/EPA

Driverless cars are one thing, but when your own job is threatened you need to pay attention

Central Bank: every banker knows that higher volumes of lending risks lower quality – the chance of loans not being repaid. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

As loan profitability declined, banks just made more loans – the usual checks and balances disappeared

Apples and oranges: the comparison with “US poverty levels” is risible; one economy is at full employment, the other is not even close. Photograph: Thinkstock

Further taxing Ireland’s diminutive 1 per cent won’t deliver equality; full employment will

According to Revenue, there will be 129,919 people earning over €100,000 this year.  Photograph: Joe St Leger

A key part of Sinn Féin’s plans is to raise taxes on people earning over €100,000

The smart money is clearly on a negotiated settlement, but only after a good bit of sabre-rattling. Photograph: Getty Images

Stakes could not be higher for crunch EU talks – but common ground appears elusive

US president Barack Obama thinks Americans should start to pay death duties. Republicans in control of Congress are apoplectic. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Politicians and commentators who persist in calling for the introduction of wealth taxes are being disingenuous

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi. ‘Draghi may be like Napoleon’s favourite general: lucky.’ Photograph: Michael Probst/AP Photo

Amid the bond-buying the furore, the release of key economic data was ignored

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper: few of his incremental reforms can be described as radical but taken together, over several years, they have amounted to an astonishingly successful centre-right revolution. Photograph: Ben Nelms/Reuters

‘Reboot Ireland’ must think that significant chunks of the Irish political spectrum are perhaps business-hostile

Someone has to pay for pensions. For the public sector and the State pension that someone is the taxpayer

Pension promises cannot be honoured when the ratio of pensioners to workers explodes

 Tokyo, Japan: the country’s recent success can be partly ascribed to the dramatic policy shifts implemented over the past few years

Japan is growing its GDP per head at levels approaching 2% a year but Europe’s GDP per head is still falling

There was a mere 10 months between the gamble of the exit and the first post-austerity budget. Photogarph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Government should be congratulated for its courage and luck on bailout exit strategy

The fall in oil prices could represent the equivalent of a trillion-dollar tax cut for the global economy. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Opinion: Irish exporters to benefit from falls in oil prices

An oilfield in Iraq. The oil market is analysed more than any other, and for good reason – it really is that important.  Photograph: Reuters

Impact of oil price collapse has potential to be massive

Social  media enhances our interactions with fellow human beings but also poses great risks. Photograph: Camelia Dobrin/Ikon Images

Bullying unacceptable at home or in school but fine on social media, writes Chris Johns

An Apple watch at an Apple event in California. Technology has essentially shifted the profitability of the telephone and newspaper industries to Apple and Google

Opinion: legacy of financial crisis may be vulnerability to technological disruption

Jean-Claude Trichet: We have his letters, but we will probably never know exactly what former ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet said to Brian Lenihan. Photograph: Bloomberg

Interests of weaker EU states will always come second to interests of the stronger ones

Company lending is a risky business with characteristics common to other forms of credit but also with its own unique challenges

Are low levels of lending to SMEs a reflection of limited demand for credit rather than lack of supply?

Michael Noonan: unlikely to agree with recent criticism of Ireland in the New York Times for displaying an apparent lack of interest in corporate tax reform. Photograph: Alan Betson

An astonishing number of US firms are incorporated in Delaware, despite having no business there. Why?

“The Common Travel Area (CTA) is utterly inconsistent: it means no queues and no passport controls when we travel to Heathrow and Gatwick, but usually involves queues and always a passport check when travelling through Dublin Airport.” Photograph:  Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Initiatives like the Common Travel Area agreement with the UK must make it easier to travel and do business

 Anyone who earns €70,000 or more (or who merely aspires one day to earn that much) is on their own. Photo: Bloomberg
Plucking the SME goose

Those who are self-employed or earning in excess of €70,000 are on their own

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: As some of the power has seeped back to Dublin, the transition has elicited another form of instability: narrow sectional interests flex their muscles for the first time in what seems an age

Noonan should abandon hoopla and tell it like it is

Apple’s effective tax rate, properly measured, is 26 per cent rather than the 52 per cent for PAYE workers. Photograph: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Ireland reveals its antipathy towards small business via the tax system

A tax protest march in the early 1980s. The debate still rages.

Partisan lobbying now dominates all discussion

The “Dragons’ Den” approach to SME financing does have a few lessons for the real world. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / IRISH TIMES

Without growth of SMEs, we will never get any serious jobs growth

An Apple iPhone 6. “The idea that we can weigh Google’s or Apple’s output is daft but it is still one that is embodied in our systems of national accounting. Statisticians struggle to keep up, and issue ‘patches’ to GDP measurement in the same way that Microsoft programmers try to fix bugs in Windows software.” Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Opinion: reputation-building is a slow process but pays dividends in the long term

Membership of the EU is not a gimme for Scotland. So, whether they vote Yes or No to independence, they might well be an ex-EU member by 2017, given the other referendum, on UK EU membership, that could be taking place around then

It’s impossible to quantify, but some economists think that investment in Scotland has already been damaged

Morning commuters walk past the Lehman Brothers headquarters in 2008.

‘What-if’ thought experiments are fun for the protagonists but pretty useless for the rest of us

Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond covers his eyes with cakes during a visit to Browning Bakers in Kilmarnock. Photograph: EPA/Robert Perry

Opinion: few investors have mulled what Scottish independence might mean

A student peruses the books  in Oxford. Oxford University has a student population in excess of 20,000 taken from over 140 countries around the world. Photo: Getty Images

You don’t need to be super smart to be a CEO, lawyer, accountant or government minister

Mario Draghi: until the ECB president’s most recent speech there has been no acknowledgement of the need to run growth at a higher rate or even of the possibility that fiscal austerity can damage growth in the short-term.

Fiscal fundamentalism a bankrupt policy

European policy makers “are doing everything they can to stop recovery taking off, so they should not be surprised if there is in fact no take-off. It is balanced-budget fundamentalism, and it has become religious”.

Ideology brooks no argument, despite what the facts say

Traders working at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

How worried should we be about a slowdown in the German economy?

The ECB is always calling for structural reforms. Structural reforms are always politically difficult. They are only ever implemented by politicians brave and decent enough to think beyond the next election. So we hardly ever see them. Photograph: EPA

Nothing in economics to justify crude European fiscalism of today

The European Central Bank  in Frankfurt Main, Germany – weak and disappointing European growth has become one of life’s constants: one that leaves the euro area extremely vulnerable to shocks, even small ones. EPA/Boris Roessler

Our recovery outpaces that of other euro zone countries, but a wider risk remains

Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose work has fueled fierce debates about inequality. Photograph: Ed Alcock/The New York Times

The bigger debate is not over the numbers but his explanations of why inequality has evolved

Patrick Honohan, governor of the Central Bank of Ireland: “the recovery in economic activity is showing a somewhat stronger trend overall than previously signalled”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Patrick Honohan has sounded an optimistic note on the economy – and with good reason

Despite the swooning over French economist Thomas Piketty, little of his analysis and conclusions on income inequality actually apply to Ireland. (Photograph: Ed Alcock/The New York Times)

Preconceived notions about income distribution don’t take into account the facts

It is surely not beyond the wit of Brussels to devise policies that boost regional capital spending while keeping a lid on the more fiscally irresponsible ambitions of local politicians. Photograph: Reuters

Lack of appetite to bolster Europe’s frail recovery astonishing

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. The organisation is about to downgrade its economic forecasts for global growth this year

“Savers either have an irrational belief in what will happen next or a heroic cheerfulness that things will turn out OK”

To argue that we need to be “another Canary Wharf”, displays both poverty of imagination and a lack of understanding of the businesses that are based in London’s docklands. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

This week we were told we need to copy the development experience of Canary Wharf

 European Commission vice president in charge of the digital agenda, Dutch Neelie Kroes,  has driven the most recent tariff reductions. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Nonetheless Brussels bureaucrats should be commended for their stance against phone companies

Economist Thomas Piketty speaking at the recent Tasc conference in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Opinion: Thomas Piketty’s proposals could effectively abolish capitalism

The European politicians gather in Paris for an informal meeting with French president Francois Hoillande (centre).

Many hedge funds have lost small fortunes betting on the inevitability of European change

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s budget package will carry much more political than economic significance. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Budget 2015 is already attracting headlines

The risk is  the ECB will be unable to deliver a German inflation rate sufficient to offset deflation in the periphery such that the overall inflation target is achieved.

If all recessions have unique features, so do recoveries

Wilbur Ross’ explanation for selling down his stake in Bank of Ireland, at a near 150 per cent profit, looks, on the face of it, eminently reasonable. Photo: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Figuring out the true value of a bank is as much art as it is science

We are still far from sustainability, so there is more travelling to be done along austerity road

The raspberry sents Brussels way might have given civil servants pause for thought

The euro sculpture outside of the European Central Bank building in Frankfurt. Photograph: Arne Dedert/EPA

Lack of proper euro government bond market is why euro experiment is a mess

We love foreign capitalists but are hostile to Irish ones. Thomas Piketty would feel even more at home here than in France.

Furore around French economist’s infamous book entrenches opinions on both sides

 Leader of Ukip  Nigel Farage: the party determined to take Britain out of the EU.  Photograph: Getty Images

In the UK, the debate over immigration is becoming nasty and underlies the rise of Ukip

The ECB’s  mandate is to set policy for the area as a whole. It is an exquisite dilemma that results in monetary police that suits nobody. Photograph: Boris Roessler/Epa

One size fits nobody at the European Central Bank

“Deutsche Bank is an extreme example of leverage, of the risks still posed by one bank. But virtually all Europe’s banks face the same problem: they need to get leverage down. At the same time, including in Ireland, politicians keep yelling at them to increase lending.” Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Europe’s bank problems are more complex than may first appear - and instant experts are only adding to the problem

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank: if the ECB is getting it precisely wrong, again, it could be easing at just the time the euro area economy is about to accelerate. Photograph: Bloomberg

Chris Johns says growth has been positive for a year now and momentum is expected to continue, perhaps helped by that ECB easing (...)

Lots of thing will be ‘looked at’ in the construction sector to create 60,000 jobs

‘Construction 2020’ has plenty of aspirations but is short on detail

A trader looks at screens at a bank in Lisbon . Photograph: Hugo Correia/Reuters

Many of us thought it would come to an end years ago but we’vee been humiliated by reality

Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in ‘Trading Places’. Their characters’ antics would be an anachronism today. Photograph: Paramount

Review: The proliferation of new stock exchanges has given rise to high-frequency trading, so-called because the average length of(...)

What the Irish banks did wrong was very simple: they lent too much money to people who didn’t pay it back

The way to stop banks from misbehaving is clear but still no action is being taken

Economist Kenneth “Ken” Rogoff. Financial repression is a term popularised by Mr  Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt, well known for their extensive research into what happens after a debt crisis. Photo: Bloomberg

Ireland has regularly inflated past debt problems away

People before Profit local election canditates Kim O’Donnell, Brid Smith, Paul Shields and Andrew Keegan protesting about water charges outside Dublin city council Offices. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

High debt levels and the prospect of future tax rises are enough to keep anybody out of the shops

The costs of solar energy have collapsed to the point where serious dents can be imagined in carbon emissions but nobody seems to have noticed. Photograph:  Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Cheap technology is turning our economies upside down, in ways that we cannot measure

Current market conditions attract lots of commentators prepared to spot another period of insanity

“The Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the Fiscal Advisory Council devote an awful lot of precious public sector resources to economic forecasting. Just stop.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Opinion: like most bad habits, forecasting is hard to give up

Noonan tells us that we are sitting on a small pot if gold, called AIB bank, worth about €11 billion

Britain’s relationship with the EU is increasingly fragile, as the recent BBC debates  between UKIP leader Nigel Farage and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg demonstrated

A UK exit plan from the EU is worked out in prize-winning report

Some researchers  contend that if we are to find the money for more education, it would be much better spent at an earlier stage

Columnist Chris Johns says debate on funding of Irish higher education should be welcomed

It is remarkable that Mario Draghi has got the governing council of the ECB to start talking about QE and to agree to use it. Photograph: Bloomberg

The ECB seems to be slowly but surely following the lead of the UK and US

While rising house prices might make us feel more financially secure, for the most part this seeming rise in wealth has zero impact on the economy as a whole.

The illusion of rising prosperity that comes from higher house prices still grips us

Otmar Issing, former ECB chief economist: claims that everything would be fine if everyone balanced their budgets and stopped asking for bailouts. Photograph: John MacDougall/AFP

Putin’s Crimean adventure may have brought a coherence and unity to European thinking that recession and high unemployment could n(...)

A child pauses by the emblem of a Ukrainian military base as a pro-Russian soldier walks behind the main gate in Perevalne, Crimea. photograph: vadim ghirda/ap

The West must show unity in dealing with Russia over Ukraine and find alternative sources of energy

 US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen: Policymakers in the US and UK now have the happy problem of economies that just might be normalising, leading, ultimately, to more familiar levels of interest rates. In Europe, we are still wondering whether the ECB will ever have to face a similar problem. Photograph: EPA

Economics: Normalisation of US and British economies points to serious ECB policy errors

UCD economist  Morgan Kelly’s latest warnings about the state of the SME sector have, for obvious reasons. Photo: Don MacMonagle

There is an awful lot of property related lending masquerading as loans to SMEs

Tyler Williams selects marijuana strains to purchase at the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary in Denver, Colorado, in January. A US-wide, Denver-style tax on the drug could yield about $40 billion a year. Photograph: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images

A dry 15-page document by the Colorado tax authorities indicates a possible route to widespread legalisation

Protesters from the public sector scuffle with police during an anti-austerity rally outside the Finance Ministry in Athens February 28, 2014. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis (GREECE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST BUSINESS)

Oxford economist comes close to drawing a thread between Trevelyan and Trichet

Whether the euro’s design flaws prove terminal or merely chronic remains to be seen.

The realities behind the myths

The Bank of Ireland building on Westmoreland Street, Dublin. According to Central Bank data, the last time BoI was as profitable, in margin terms, was in 2004. Photo: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

If we want banks to be as dull but as efficient as utilities they must be regulated in the same way

Olli Rehn has undoubtedly been stung by the many critics of austerity, not least Paul Krugman, who coined the term “confidence fairy” when describing the intellectual flimsiness of austerity’s rationale. Photograph: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

Sluggish economies with high unemployment are feeding a malaise that is benefitting europhobic parties

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, is convinced that we are not Japan. But with each release of inflation data he must be getting more worried. Photo: Reuters

Japan was so wealthy twenty years ago, low growth has not been that much of a hardship

 “Trouble has come in a variety of ways, sometimes just through bad luck, but some people forgot the basic rules of investing and paid a very heavy price; the consequences, for pensioners, are sometimes awful.” Photograph:    David Silverman/Getty Images

The sense in which equities are a “sure thing” is a very slippery concept

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond (fourth left) during a question-and-answer session on Scotland’s Future in Bathgate, Scotland. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

A distaste for the European currency is one thing that does unite the UK

Going to college in the 1970s it seemed that even the quantum physicists, not just the sociology professors, saw the universe through a Marxist prism.

One of the many unsolved puzzles is the absence of a coherent left wing narrative, writes Chris Johns

The  1987 Economics Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow:   “The cheerful blandness of Mankiw’s ‘Defending the One Percent’ may divert attention from its occasional unstated premises, dubious assumptions, and omitted facts.”  Photograph: Getty Images

Recent exchange between Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow and Harvard professor Greg Mankiw is illustrative

The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany. The ECB should fess up its errors and figure out a neat way of giving us some debt relief.

The ECB should fess up to its errors and figure out a way of giving us some debt relief

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