Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (right) and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday, budget day. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

VAT cut for hospitality and help for first-time buyers ‘wasteful or ineffective’

The worst-case scenario, where a vaccine does not become available next year, has not been considered. This would have very serious implications for  public health policy and the economy.

John FitzGerald: By late 2021, excess savings will hit €20bn or 20% of total consumption

Reducing transport emissions may be complicated by Brexit. A lot of “dirty” cars bought in the Republic come second-hand from the UK.

People, firms and farmers need incentives to modify transport and heating behaviour

Since 2018, more than 620 appeals against planting or harvesting trees have been taken. Photograph: Serdar Yorulmaz/iStock

John FitzGerald: Licensing system cripples planting efforts and inhibits climate efforts

Joe Biden with Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in 2016. Biden has already established that his great-grandfather came from Louth and his great-great-great grandfather from Mayo. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Biden would be latest president to claim Irish heritage but influence may be on wane

The export sector has held up despite Covid-19.

Ireland’s tradeable sector is mainly untouched by crisis and will drive recovery

‘The dismal economic outturn has nothing to do with unwise behaviour by consumers or governments. It is due to the pandemic.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

John FitzGerald: Covid-19 vaccine could rapidly boost consumer confidence

Comparing Finland and Ireland’s experience of crash and recovery indicates an independent exchange rate is not an automatic  cure. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Recovery can be driven by outward-looking economies with educated workforces

East and west German citizens celebrate as they climb the Berlin wall at the Brandenburg gate after the opening of the east German border was announced. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/ Reuters

The experience of German integration holds lessons for Ireland

A much more effective way of supporting cycling than financing the cycle-to-work scheme would be to spend the money on bike parks at commuter stations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

John FitzGerald: Expansion of help-to-buy and bike-to-work schemes are poor uses of funds

Grafton Street: If an effective vaccine is developed over the coming 18 months and the economy can be taken out of cold storage, some lost ground of 2020 may be made up. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

John FitzGerald: Government faces obstacles to boosting housing supply amid pandemic

Pascal Saint-Amans of the OECD, who is leading a global initiative on tax reform.  Photograph: Conor Mulhern

John FitzGerald: Supporting OECD on taxing digital giants could be a small price to pay

Irish Water: the obvious solution to funding shortfalls is metering but this is unlikely to happen for quite some time

Utility differs from energy sector in that it has no power to ensure it is financed

The Cabinet comes with many changes to departments and these may alter the traditional roles of secretary-generals. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Specific management focus might beat generalism in serving portfolio recalibration

CSO data published on Tuesday shows that the income of 80% of households has not fallen due to the Covid-19 crisis. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

John FitzGerald: Fiscal stimulus to encourage consumption this summer is doomed to failure

Changing legal systems to outlaw gender discrimination is just a starting point. Changing what happens on the ground is a much bigger challenge. Photograph: UIG via Getty Images

Women enjoy three-quarters of the legal rights of men, study shows

The exceptional decline in the EU economy has made it necessary to relax the rules, with Lufthansa accessing €9 billion in state aid. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP

Brussels has to formulate state assistance framework with clear principles of fairness

The emerging German tax proposal is very different from the 2011 one, responding to many problems identified with the original version. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall

Financial transaction fee may be ‘pawn’ to help protect Ireland’s corporation tax regime

Because of Dublin’s low density, buses have a key role to play in keeping the city moving. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

John FitzGerald: Good public transport improves quality of life and lowers greenhouse gases

A deserted Grafton Street during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as continuing assistance to business will be required in the recovery period, a more fine-tuned approach is necessary

John FitzGerald: SME support conditional on reaching deal with landlord to cut rent

Much of the new debt being issued by the Government will end up being bought by the ECB. File photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

John FitzGerald: Borrowing is an appropriate response to pandemic for several reasons

‘By 2022 there is likely to be an exceptional rise in expenditure on the things we can’t spend on today.’ File photo. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

By the end of this year households will have up to €15bn extra in their bank accounts

While the Covid-19 lockdown may reduce this year’s emissions by over 5 per cent, as the economy re-opens there will be an inevitable rebound, and much of these gains reversed

Delay means more expensive to get to net zero emissions by 2050

A protest in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon against conscription in 1918. The issue of home rule or independence dominated the concerns of that time, not the grave risk to public health. Photograph: Photo12/UIG/Getty Images

There’s a ‘collective amnesia’ in Ireland around the deadly outbreak of 1918-19

For Italy and Greece,  both heavily dependent on tourism, the recovery is likely to be more difficult than for Germany or Ireland. Photograph: Getty Images

John FitzGerald: There are advantages to a pooled approach to borrowing across the euro zone

The public understands that, in the light of the Covid-19 economic shutdown, many manifesto commitments are currently undeliverable

John FitzGerald: New administration must underpromise in programme for government

Merrion Square in Dublin stands empty due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government borrowing could end up being a quarter of what it was in the financial crisis

By shifting to renewable energy, the world demand for fossil fuels is likely to fall between 2030 and 2050. Photograph: Eric Taylor/Bloomberg

John FitzGerald: Oil price fall reflects the long-term changes in the world market for oil

The State can borrow to try and ensure that by the end of 2021 most individuals and companies will be back on their feet. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

After crisis passes, there will be very limited resources to carry out pre-election promises

A couple wear surgical masks while shopping  on  Grafton Street, Dublin. The longer the health crisis continues the bigger the economic impact. Photograph: Paul Faith / AFP via Getty Images

The significant economic costs will become more obvious over the next six months

With the recovery in the economy, the demand for workers in the construction sector has grown rapidly.

Shortage of workers and houses means drawing from inactive groups already here

 Can we build enough  homes to satisfy the claims made by the various parties in the recent general election campaign? Photograph: Cyril Byrne

John FitzGerald: Urgent action is not enough to deliver required new homes

Daniel O’Donnell welcomes the Mary from Dungloe contestants on stage during a concert. Ireland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2011 might have been helped by his popularity in certain small countries. Photograph: North West Newspix

More active strategy to harness economic value of Irish culture could reap rewards

A euphorbium poplar forest in Kuche, Xinjiang Province, China. Photograph: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty
Poem of the week: Who

A new work by John FitzGerald

The difference in living standards between rich and poor regions in practice may not be quite as high as the headline figures suggest, because housing is typically a lot cheaper in poorer regions.  Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Cutting taxes on income or property would damage ability to redistribute wealth

While polls over the last year have shown an increased interest in tackling climate change, this appears to have evaporated now that an election is under way. Photograph:  Getty Images

John FitzGerald: It’s much easier in election mode to offer more cash for health or housing than to try to save the planet

‘It is no surprise that housing is figuring prominently in election manifestos.’ File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

John FitzGerald: Parties’ plans could exacerbate things without solving underlying issues

In 2013, the UK government introduced a carbon price floor, resulting in the closure of all coal-fired generation plants in mainland Britain. Photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

John FitzGerald: Co-ordinated North-South action is needed to tackle the issue effectively

TK Whitaker  in 1975, when he was governor of the Central Bank. Photograph: Tommy Collins

Downgrading of specialist skills has contributed to policy failures in the 2000s

US president Donald Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2017. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

John FitzGerald: New protectionist regime is good for neither US nor the rest of the world

Intel in Leixlip, Co Dublin. The CSO figures  show that multinationals account for around 20%  of our income, a similar share to what it was in 2013

John FitzGerald: It is only after much CSO work that we are beginning to see what is really going on

Probably the main channel through which the ECB action has affected the euro zone economy has been through the effect of zero interest rates on the exchange rate. Photograph: Getty Images

John FitzGerald: A euro zone fiscal stimulus is the only way to effectively revitalise the economy

“If the price of damaging emissions is not fully reflected in the prices we pay, the unconscious tendency will be to overconsume what is harmful, and underinvest in the greener alternatives.”

Policy changes could help shift the behaviour of businesses and households

Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, once an immigration inspection station many Irish emigrants passed through. Between 1820 and 1920, about six million people emigrated from Ireland to the US

Immigrants to Ireland from a non-English-speaking country typically experience some disadvantage

Those most likely to be consistently poor today are those who are unemployed, out of work due to sickness or disability, or lone parents. Photograph: iStock

The policy mix needed to deal with inequity is complex, not something easily fixed by changes to the welfare or tax systems

A customs post outside Newry, Co Down. File photograph: Pacemaker

John FitzGerald: Boris Johnson’s unrealistic timetable for trade deal could bring us back to dark days

The fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago tomorrow triggered the most fundamental change in Europe since the second World War. Photograph: AP Photo, File

Breaking up a country is relatively easy but, as the Germans discovered, putting it together again is much more challenging

Samson and Goliath: Twin shipbuilding gantry cranes in the Titanic quarter in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

John FitzGerald: A sharp fall in vital transfers to Northern Ireland after Brexit is likely

DUP leader Arlene Foster. The first Brexit agreement in December 2017 between May’s government and the EU had to be rapidly altered because of opposition from her  party. Photograph: Sam Boal/

With checks between the North and Britain adding to the costs for businesses, it’s no wonder the DUP is cross

Joint Nobel Prize winner in economics, Esther Duflo,  at MIT on October 14th. Photograph:  Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Esther Duflo’s research in developing countries has practical impact on tackling poverty

The budget introduced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe includes about €800 million of conditional support for those who will be worst affected by Brexit. Photograph: Tom Honan

Budget needed to be Goldilocks solution to keep economy from overheating or cooling

An engineer measuring voltage or current. Having links with less “windy” systems means that surplus power can be exported when the wind blows in Ireland

John Fitzgerald: if Ireland is to generate 40% of its electricity from wind we need to double our interconnection with Britain and(...)

What happened to the 200,000 construction workers who lost their jobs in the 2008-2010 period?

Economists from the Irish Government Economic Service show the value of having in-house analysis capacity

A major problem for Ireland’s beef sector is that EU demand for the product is weak relative to supply.

Brexit, removal of EU protections and rise of meat alternatives are death knell for sector

One response may be for an orphan Northern Ireland to seek a home in a united Ireland. However, from an economic point of view, this would have unpleasant consequences North and South. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

John FitzGerald: Both North and South could pay a large price for unity in the near future

An exterior view of the Titanic Belfast building in Belfast, Northern Ireland. File photograph: David Moir/Reuters

John FitzGerald: The North faces decades of inertia unless there is urgent reform

Cars made in a free port Sunderland using imported parts would attract some tariffs if sold to consumers elsewhere within the UK. Photograph: EPA/Andy Rain

John FitzGerald: Drive towards making Teesside a free port could offer a way forward

Today 800 million litres of milk produced in the North are sent to the Republic for processing. Photograph: iStock

Many Northern farmers will be unable to continue in business

Cities that have introduced congestion charging have seen tangible improvements in terms of reduced traffic and better air quality.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

In the next few years, we will need to commit to a new tax regime for road transport

Alternative land uses could provide positive returns, rather than the losses that beef production entails. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

John FitzGerald: The economics of beef are on a knife edge – changing makes sense

The minimum wage is effective at providing some protection for poorly organised workers with weak bargaining positions.

John Fitzgerald: Ireland’s lower-paid workers are not always from poorest households

Our prices for food and clothing are about 10 per cent more expensive than in the EU15. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

John FitzGerald: Price level here is more than compensated for by other factors

Poor life expectancy today is related to many factors such as deprivation, social class and education level. Photograph: Getty Images

Inequality in life expectancy has received much less attention than income inequality

The shock to our economy from a disorderly Brexit would reduce our national income by about 4 per cent, and lead to a major rise in unemployment

Pumping money into construction will lead to price rises, not increased supply

Facebook in Dublin. Most of the foreign multinationals in Ireland today are primarily here because of the availability of the skilled labour they need. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

There is still work to be done in separating out multinationals from the rest of the economy

Breaking down the   Berlin Wall. Its fall  initiated a major transformation in the wider European economy whose effects played out over the subsequent 25 years.  Photograph:   David Brauchli/Reuters

Populist politicians continue to blame globalisation and foreigners for society’s ills

‘Child benefit is paid to mothers, this does not protect them from personally experiencing deprivation. Photograph: iStock

Research found in low-income households benefit spent by mothers on their children

The Republic has been a net beneficiary until the current decade, and today makes only a small net contribution to the budget. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Irish contributions will increase if UK leaves union but benefits are worth the cost

While housing output is beginning to pick up, it could be another four or five years before supply and demand come into balance. Photograph: Getty Images

John FitzGerald: New survey shows employment figures set to grow despite threats

Dollymount, Dublin. Throughout Ireland, extreme weather has brought more frequent and severe storms, increased flooding, droughts and wildfires, with all their negative consequences. File photograph: Eric Luke

Collapse of Rome shows how failure to adapt can have catastrophic consequences

 Work  at the national children’s hospital  site at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. While its  cash cost  is heading for €2bn, a hidden cost is the effect on the economy’s output of raising the revenue to pay for it. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

While a sophisticated method for assessing the value of public projects is now applied, this does not guarantee final costs will r(...)

Paschal Donohoe: tricky decisions ahead. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

John FitzGerald: Should Donohoe prepare State for Brexit crash-out or further growth?

Crowded classroom where 248 children are taught at once in a Belfast school: Northern Ireland urgently needs to reform its educational system to deliver better results for children of all abilities and backgrounds.

In the North, 21% per cent of 30-34 year olds have not completed their post-primary education

‘It is not fair that homes built since 2013 should be exempt while those who own homes built earlier pay in full.’

John FitzGerald: The levy is not perfect but it may offer a solution for the housing crisis

‘Our babysitting club was a great way to build community and make friends on our estate.’ File photograph: Getty Images

John FitzGerald: Capitol Hill babysitting co-op’s fate offers a lesson on quantitative easing

Sinn Féin spokesperson on finance Pearse Doherty has proposed a Bill that would prevent banks from selling home loans without the consent of borrowers.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

John FitzGerald: Move on securitisations could hurt consumers and housing supply

TK Whitaker at a press conference in Dublin in April 1975. Whitaker helped establish the ESRI.   Photograph: Tommy Collins/The Irish Times

John FitzGerald: Government policies have seen better outcomes thanks to domestic expertise

Wherever manufacturing takes place, automation and computerisation have led to job losses among the least skilled, whose jobs are most easily automated

The long-term solution to loss of unskilled jobs is to ensure that those leaving education have the skills to work in a modern eco(...)

When does an Irish cow become a British cow? Photograph: iStock

John FitzGerald: The UK’s proposed ‘honesty box’ approach to NI-British trade raises problems

In Ireland, our average annual hours dropped by 150 during the recession, and has since recovered as employment picked up.

About a third of the difference in working hours can be explained by annual holidays

Computer-generated image of what MetroLink arriving at Swords could look like

John FitzGerald: Why has the projected Luas Green Line closure time jumped fourfold?

Major home improvements are not only expensive, they are also inherently disruptive, and this will remain an obstacle to people retrofitting their homes.

Biggest problem for households is cutting fossil fuel energy consumed in home heating

Queen’s University Belfast. In  recent years, the impact of emigration on Northern Irish society and the economy has been more negative than in the Republic

Permanent migration of graduates has had serious negative impact on North’s economy

Traditionally, the key factor driving emigration from Ireland has been the prospect of a better standard of living in Britain.

John FitzGerald: Britain’s influence over Irish migration and wages may be waning

An orderly Brexit would leave our economy growing very rapidly this year. In turn this would mean that the current fiscal stance, embodied in the budget, is very inappropriate

Instead of fuelling the boom the Government should be saving for future shocks

President Michael D Higgins on a state visit to Vietnam in 2016. The president was visiting a district in Vinh Linh to see work Irish Aid had completed. Photograph: Maxwell’s

John FitzGerald: Irish Aid’s activity boosts our influence and opens doors to trade

In the case of a no-deal Brexit, Irish food exports, especially of meat, will be subject to heavy duties. And the full effects will take some time to play out

John FitzGerald: One concern about a bad-tempered Brexit is that some of the potential ways of smoothing the economic consequences(...)

“The true cost of achieving an optimal design for the children’s hospital is that it has hoovered up the budgets needed for other health facilities that will, as a result, be delayed for years.”

Children’s hospital design another example where the best is the enemy of the good

An employee assists travellers with Vietjet Aviation JSC self check-in kiosks at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Any disruption to the Chinese economy will have serious  consequences for Vietnam. Photograph: Maika Elan/Bloomberg

Unpredictable nature of US trade policy poses a particular danger for super-open economies

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. He   has received a windfall in corporation tax receipts this year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

John FitzGerald: Surge in revenue from multinationals is a boost but masks reality

“Carbon taxes will discourage future developments that involve lengthy commutes by car. However, there is a challenge of how best to support those already caught in this situation.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mitigating effects of carbon tax on those with lowest incomes is essential

By the end of 2017 the State Claims Agency estimated that its outstanding liability was €2.7 billion, about three-quarters of which related to claims against the health system. Photograph: iStock

John FitzGerald: Claims system adds cost to health service with adverse effects

Our participation rates in education were further boosted by choices young people made in the recession to stay on in school or college. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Recent CSO study shows that workers with degrees earn two-thirds more than others

A quarter of the class of 2010 were living abroad five years after graduation.

Permanent emigration of people with key skills could be serious loss to Irish economy

A lorry passes a sign on a main road outside Newry pointing towards an old customs and excise station near the Border. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The only way to have a soft border after Brexit is for UK to stay in customs union

‘After 2008, the necessary adjustment was concentrated into four years. Recovery is faster when tough medicine is taken quickly.’ Photograph: Getty Images

John FitzGerald: State’s progress out of recession is much smoother than in 1980s

The UK announced a tech tax this week. While this type of tax has serious defects, the move reflects a public concern felt across the EU. Photograph: Getty Images

While the services of social media companies may overlap, they each have their distinctive niche which they dominate worldwide

‘If the UK is reduced to England, Wales and the North, the exceptional generosity of transfers to the North will stand out even more, increasing the likelihood that mainland politicians will choose to  cast the North adrift.’

John FitzGerald: Britain’s Brexit ‘civil war’ could lead to a disastrous end for the union

Dublin’s bus network must adapt to reflect the city’s growth. Photograph: Alan Betson

Most commuters in 2040 will depend on buses not the Luas, Dart or Metro

William Nordhaus  after winning the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences at Yale University on Monday. Photograph:  Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Climate change specialist William Nordhaus says carbon price needed to achieve targets will rise as policies have been delayed

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