Friday, September 14, 2018

Shortage of STEM graduates a myth in Europe and US

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and because of the importance of innovation for growth in a modern economy the term that was coined by the US National Science Foundation, has become a buzzword in many countries.

The high tech sector has been crying wolf for many years about the shortage of STEM graduates but there is no shortage and the motivation is to have a big pool that would enable it to select the cream.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Epic failure of global war on drugs under lead of US

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its ‘World Drug Report 2018’ published in June 2018, reports that 275m people worldwide — roughly 5.6% of the global population aged 15–64 years — used drugs at least once during 2016. Cannabis which comes in 3 forms (marijuana from dried flowers and leaves; hashish made from the resin [a secreted gum] of the cannabis plant and hash oil, the most potent) accounted for illicit use by 70% of the drug-taking population.

UNDOC said cocaine manufacture in 2016 reached the highest level ever reported dominated by Colombia while from 2016-2017 global opium production jumped by 65%, with a rise in yields in Afghanistan — years of eradication efforts by the US in both countries had got nowhere.

However, it’s synthetic opioids, not the traditional plant-based ones that have the greatest danger, accounting for about 49,000 overdose deaths from a total of over 72,000 in the US in 2017 (this is likely an underestimate). In Canada in 2017 (population 37m, 11.3% of US level) there were more than 4,000 overdose deaths — more Canadians are now dying of overdoses than motor vehicle accidents and homicides combined.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Irish jobs top 2007 bubble peak as rural villages in peril

Last week data on jobs in the Irish economy showed that total employment in June 2018 had exceeded the peak property bubble total of 2.252m in September 2007, by almost 3,000 people. Meanwhile, an announcement by An Post, the state postal service, that it proposed closing 159 rural post offices in 25 of the 26 counties, raised fears that many villages would face a slow death. The service said its remaining 960 post offices would benefit from "investment and consolidation."

Last November the Government approved €30m of State funding to protect the future of the postal network. 

Also last week, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported that the number of immigrants to the State in the year to April 2018 was estimated to have risen by 6.7% from 84,600 to 90,300 while the number of emigrants fell over the same period, from 64,800 to 56,300 (-13.1%) resulting in net Irish inward migration in 2018 of 34,000 — the highest level of net inward migration since 2008.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

No Utopia but are Nordic countries happiness superpowers?

Top 10, World Happiness Report, Better Life Index and Social Progress Index 

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the English lawyer, scholar, writer, member of parliament and chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII, who died by public execution, was the first person to write of a 'utopia', a word used to describe a perfect imaginary world. According to the British Library, More's book, 'Utopia' imagines a complex, self-contained community set on an island, in which people share a common culture and way of life. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere.'

Nordic countries in particular, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, are often cited for their quality of life, material standard of living, strong economies, work-life balance, high entrepreneurship, education, low inequality, transparency and high participation in politics coupled with low levels of corruption.

Friday, August 24, 2018

German import demand supports 5m jobs in European Union

Chancellor Angela Merkel met Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Andalusia, Spain, August 11, 2018
Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

This week the Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, published an estimate for Germany's current account surplus in 2018 while Ifo economists separately reported on research which shows that countries with high current account surpluses like Germany are not responsible for unemployment in other countries. Earlier this year, work by Prognos AG, a Swiss consultancy, estimated that German demand — dominated by intermediate inputs for industrial sector — sustain almost 5m jobs in the European Union (EU).

Germany had 159 country trade surpluses in 2017; EU world’s top exporter

The German current account* is expected to fall to 7.8% of annual economic output this year following a 7.9% rate in 2017. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Pessimism & Ignorance: The world of common people has never been better

The widespread ignorance about the great social and economic advances in the world coupled with misinformation on domestic trends, can trigger discontent when optimism is warranted — the question of whether the glass is seen as half-full or half-empty in deciding whether you're an optimist or pessimist, may depend on genes and William Shakespeare (1564–1616), the great English dramatist, has Hamlet, prince of Denmark, saying "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

However, ignorance is not bliss whatever the view of the proverbial glass maybe.

Even in a decade in the European Union road deaths in 2016 at about 26,000 were down 40%; in the US, according to FBI data, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, the rate fell 74% during that time span. In Dublin City, home ownership rose from 26% of households in 1946 compared with 61% outside the large cities, to 60% in 2016, down from over 70% in 2000, according to the Central Statistics Office.

In 1956 as the 6 founding states of what would become the European Economic Community were negotiating the terms of what they called a 'common market' (cited in Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome 1957),' Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, two of Germany's leading philosophers, who were members of the Frankfurt School, began their own debate on producing a contemporary version of the 1848 'Communist Manifesto' which had been written by their compatriots, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Adorno commented, as his wife Gretel recorded, "We do not live in a revolutionary situation, and actually things are worse than ever. The horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one." 'Towards a New Manifesto?'— 62 years later it's still possible to imagine a better world.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Global city housing crisis and costly planning restrictions

BBC report August 15, 2018: How housing has divided the young 

I have discussed the impact of planning restrictions on property prices in the past (here for example) but while some, of course, are necessary, there is seldom an estimate of the cost — in 2015 Jason Furman, President Obama's chief economic adviser, cited a cost of 50% or more on a typical house in US urban areas; London School of Economics (LSE) research has estimated “that restrictive planning policies inflate the price of office space in the West End (of London) by about 800%. A square foot there is twice as expensive as in midtown Manhattan.” This year research published by the Reserve Bank of Australia estimated that that zoning restrictions raise detached house prices by 73% of marginal costs in Sydney.

Monday, August 13, 2018

James Joyce

Sylvia Beach meets James Joyce in her Parisian English language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in 1922 — this was the year she published 'Ulysses.' It began to be serialised in the US from 1918, resulting in a ban that was lifted in 1933.  

Last year a friend invited me to a performance of a revival of Tom Stoppard’s (b. 1937) brilliant 1974 play, 'Travesties,' at the Appolo Theatre in London. The drama is set in Zurich in 1917, and it brings together James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, the poet and founder of Dada — the nihilistic, anti-art movement — and, Vladimir Lenin.

The play is narrated by an elderly Henry Carr, who had been a clerk at the British Consulate in Zurich during the First World War. His memory is a bit flaky and he believes that he had been the consul in 1917, and the real consul had been his butler. In real life, Carr had a legal dispute with James Joyce about the cost of a pair of trousers worn by Carr in Joyce's amateur production in the city of Oscar Wilde’s 'The Importance of Being Earnest.'

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Brexit and rickety foundations of the Irish economy

In the early heady months after the surprise June 23, 2016 vote of 33.6% of UK adults* to leave the European Union, Boris Johnson, a putative British statesman, invoked the “triumph of hope over experience” when the British army of Afghanistan was wiped out in 1842 – almost to a man. He saw the quest for ‘Global Britain’ as reflecting a country with one in eight of the people born in Britain “now living abroad – a bigger diaspora than any other rich nation, you ask yourself what impulse drives this astonishing globalism, this wanderlust of aid workers and journalists and traders and diplomats and entrepreneurs, because whatever that feeling is, it isn’t xenophobia,” Johnson said, and added to dissenters “who say we are now too small, too weak, too poor to have any influence on the world, I say in the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns: ‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us /To see oursels as ithers see us!’”

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Facts of Week: Heatwaves the new normal of climate change

Bering Sea ice at record low — April 29, 2013 - April 29, 2018

Less ice formed in the Bering Sea during the winter of 2017-18 than in any winter since the start of written records in 1850. Normally, ice covers more than 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers) of the sea in late April, roughly twice the size of Texas. The ice extent at that time in 2018 was only about 10 percent of normal. Changes in when and where the sea ice melts can affect phytoplankton blooms which, in turn, can affect the entire Bering ecosystem. Further, open water absorbs more of the Sun’s energy than ice, which contributes to the planet’s warming. Read more at NASA’s Earth Observatory

It's a fair guess that many climate change deniers who seek 100% irrefutable evidence of climate change, believe in a God despite no evidence of its existence.

Germany top beer producer in EU, Netherlands top exporter

To mark World Beer Day on August 3rd, Eurostat reported that in 2017, over 41bn litres of beer containing alcohol were produced in the European Union (EU), 2.5bn litres more than in 2016. The EU’s beer production was equivalent to almost 81 litres per inhabitant.

Brexit Video Reports: Sharp shift in UK public opinion

Sky Data poll: Public turning against Brexit — British public opinion has shifted sharply against Brexit, according to a new Sky Data poll. The survey reveals the government is haemorrhaging trust over Brexit, with two-thirds thinking the outcome will be bad for Britain.

Expected road chaos leading to Port of Dover and other reports.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Average Irish housing size lowest of EU's rich countries — Part 2

The average Irish housing size is the lowest of the rich countries of the European Union despite the low population density and the fact that houses account for 92% of housing stock in Ireland — the highest ratio in the EU.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Irish Housing Crisis: It’s time for radical solutions — Part 1

Ireland needs to take several radical measures to tackle the current housing crisis but a minority government would struggle to enact them.

Irish real house prices up 175% in 50 years, UK +405%, Germany -1%

Average Irish housing size lowest of EU's rich countries — Part 2

Land value capture

Land value capture (LVC) is a means of funding infrastructure improvements and providing finance for social housing by recovering all or some of the increase in property value generated by public infrastructure investment.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Trump’s America: A banana republic with nukes

This week it was reported that the US government paid more than $77,000 to President Trump’s Scottish golf resort ahead of his stay there last weekend. The Turnberry course has been losing “an astonishing amount of money,” including $23m in 2016, according to Adam Davidson in The New Yorker.

Davidson asks: “Did he purchase and rehabilitate Turnberry, as he did so much else, with other people’s money?” — i.e. was it funded via money laundering for Russian nationals?  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Irish real house prices up 175% in 50 years, UK +405%, Germany -1%

Irish real [consumer price index (CPI) inflation-adjusted) house prices rose by 175% in 1971-2016 (45 years); British prices rose by 405% in 1967-2016 (49 years) and German prices fell by -1% in 1968-2016 (48 years), according to the Bank for International Settlements — the BIS was founded in 1930 and is located in Basel, Switzerland. It is often called the "central bank for central banks."

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Brexit, the lost empire, and dodgy modern UK economy

*Just one-third of the UK voting age population voted for Brexit and it was crazy that David Cameron, prime minister 2010-2016, did not put a higher approval threshold for the hugely significant decision to leave the European Union that had been Britain's main trading partner for 43 years. Since the June 23, 2016 decision, the complexity of untangling regulations and agreements has been daunting.

George Macartney (1737-1806), a native of Antrim and graduate of Trinity College Dublin, in 1773 wrote a book on his period in office as chief secretary of Ireland — he was the second highest official in the British administration of Ireland. Macartney was a member of both the Irish and British parliaments and he made it clear that Ireland formed part of “a vast empire on which the sun never sets and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained."

Monday, July 02, 2018

Best countries in world to start or run a business in 2018

Ireland has had a positive environment for business for many decades as successive governments sought to make the country an attractive location for foreign direct investment (FDI), besides the offer of low tax rates. During the general election campaign in early 2011, Enda Kenny, taoiseach/ prime minister, stressed the aspiration that by 2016 the country would be "the best small country in the world in which to do business."

“I will seek the trust of the Irish people to implement Fine Gael’s plan to get Ireland working again,” Kenny said on Jan 27, 2011. “I firmly believe that by 2016, Ireland can become the best small country in the world in which to do business, the best country in which to raise a family and the best country in which to grow old with dignity and respect.”

"Since coming into office 7 months ago I have told nearly all audiences that by 2016 I intend to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business," Kenny said on October 28, 2011. "An integral part of this vision is to transform Ireland into the Digital Capital of Europe."

Friday, June 29, 2018

When 600-year old French word entrepreneur replaced capitalist

Ballyheigue, situated on the County Kerry coast between the mouth of Tralee Bay and the Shannon River Estuary, was the birthplace of Richard Cantillon, the 18th century economist and controversial Paris banker. He died in London in a fire at his home in 1734, where he may have been murdered. It is believed that the ancestors of Cantillon had left Northern France to accompany William the Conqueror in his 1066 invasion of England [genealogy: de Cantelon, Cantillon, Cantlon, etc.; Norman 'de Cauntelowe,' Latin 'de Cantulupo,' i.e., of Chanteloup in France (Seine-et-Oise)]. The name Ballyheigue comes from the Gaelic 'Baile Uí Thaidhg,' the town of the clan of Tadhg or Timothy. It is believed that the reference was to Tadhg Cantillon and in the 1300s, the family had a local castle when it was said to have been held by Ric de Clahull (Richard de Cantillon).

The word entrepreneur was first included in the ‘Dictionnaire de la langue française’ in the 1437 edition and it had been derived from the verb entreprendre, which has been in use from at least the 12th century.

Entreprendre means to undertake or set about doing something and the word entrepreneur was defined in the dictionary as “celle qui entreprend quelque chose” (in both 1437 and in Émile Littré’s edition in the 1870s; See here.) According to Bert F. Hoselitz (1913-1995), the Austrian-born economist who sourced the earliest record of the word, the entrepreneur in the early centuries was typically a contractor for the king, involving big projects, and of course, there was a risk in seeking profit from a fixed-price job.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

High growth firms as the Holy Grail or fool’s gold?

Click image for original size

In 2006 Finfacts reported that Xsil, an Irish firm producing innovative laser micro-machining systems to the semiconductor industry, had won the top prize in that year's Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards. The company had achieved an impressive aggregate growth in revenue of 17,333% in the previous 5 years. Three years later Peter Conlon, the co-founder, told The Irish Times that Xsil Ltd had no assets to speak of except stock, which had been valued at “a couple of hundred thousand dollars, but we’d be lucky to get a cent on the dollar for it” — note that the superlative performance was based on revenue, not profitability.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Economic Facts of Week: Brexit videos and Ireland's low science base

FT Whitehall editor James Blitz looks at the mounting frustration of leading UK companies  Siemens and John Lewis  over the Brexit process and the UK's future trading relationship with the EU.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Irish 2017 per capita standard of living again below Italy and EU-28 average

Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) is a useful proxy for material standard of living and is based on goods and services actually consumed by individuals, irrespective of whether these goods and services are purchased and paid for by households, by government, or by non-profit organisations. In international volume comparisons of consumption, AIC is often seen as the preferable measure, since it is not influenced by the fact that the organisation of certain important services consumed by households, like health and education services, differs a lot across countries. Data are adjusted for price differences — Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) — and the AIC is more reliable than gross domestic product (GDP) per capita which tracks more than household welfare. Eurostat reports that in 2017 Ireland was again below the EU-28 average and also below Italy.

Irish broad rate of unemployment at 17% in March 2018

The Irish broad rate of unemployment was at 17% at the end of the first quarter of 2018. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Wednesday published the latest Labour Force Survey showing that the seasonally adjusted headline unemployment rate was 5.8% for Q1 2018 and the seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed decreased by 12,900 to 137,300 (133,000 actual count) — the headline rate is based on employment of at least one hour per week according to an International Labour Organisation definition.

Monday, June 18, 2018

150 years for poor Irish child/ descendants to earn national average income: 60 years in Denmark

Click image for bigger version

The average disposable income of the richest 10% of the population is about 9.5 times that of the lowest 10% across OECD countries, compared with 7 times, 25 years ago. Wealth inequality is even more pronounced with the top 10% holding half the wealth while the bottom 40% have only 3%.

The United States has had greater social mobility than large European economies such as Germany, France, and the UK, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — a think-tank for 35 mainly rich countries including Ireland —  but the US has higher levels of income and wealth inequality.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Economic Facts of Week: US 2017 Balance of Payments surplus with EU at $14bn- EU says it had surplus of $170bn with US

Figure 1 above, shows that the US current account/ Balance of Payments with Europe has been approximately balanced since 2008 and has been in small surplus since 2009. It is the result of a substantial increase of the net income of companies (balance of primary income) and the surplus in trade in services with the EU. These gains are more than sufficient to outweigh the trade in goods deficit, and ultimately lead to a positive bilateral current account from the perspective of the US. Source: ifo Institute based on data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In Ireland we are familiar with distorted data resulting from massive tax avoidance and Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office also has a big difference in estimates of the Balance of Payments/current account balance with the US that is also related to the earnings of American companies.