I had an entirely different topic in mind to write about today, but WorldbyStormâ€™s comment on my Parlon Leaves, Collinâ€™s Rewrites PD History post instigated a bit of research into the possible causes of Irelandâ€™s â€˜Celtic Tigerâ€™ economy, and well, I hate to see good information gathering go to waste.
To recap, writing an op-ed piece in Wednesdayâ€™s Irish Times, Stephen Collins tries to access the implications of Tom Parlonâ€™s decision to leave the PDs and the presidency of the party to take up a 250,000 euro a year job as head of the Construction Federation of Ireland.
In doing so he attempts to work out where it all went wrong for the PDs. However, the most contentious part of the piece for me was when he said:
â€œThe great failure of the PDs was that they never managed to get the credit for the economic changes that fuelled the Celtic Tiger.â€
I called this propaganda, pure and simple. Itâ€™s so patently false that it doesnâ€™t deserve careful refutation.
However, WorldbyStorms was good enough to comment that Collins failed to mention:
…the massively improved global economic situation from 1997 onwards, nor of fundamental structural changes in the Irish economy, not least of which was a highly educated workforce, social partnership and so forth, at least some of which were policies the PDs found anathema.
All of which I can only agree. But what Iâ€™m curious about is, is Stephen Collins not aware of the economic causes of Irelandâ€™s economic success, even though it has been widely known? Or is he being purposely partisan, using a line repeated constantly in the run up to the recent election by the PDs and believed by no one, least of all by the Irish electorate.
Perhaps Stephen Collins thinks that the Irish electorate is not very well informed. If this is the case the Irish electorate has some sort of excuse, busy as they are with their own business. Stephen though, has no such excuse. Itâ€™s his business to know better.
And its not very hard finding out. You donâ€™t have to scan OECD reports or keep up with the latest papers from the ERSI. All you have to do is do a Google search.
Which is what I did to find this paper, Institutional Capacity and Irelandâ€™s â€œCeltic Tigerâ€ Economy by Professor Frank Barry, of Trinity College Dublin.
Frank Barryâ€™s main areas of expertise is Foreign Direct Investment, economic development and the economy of Ireland, according to his online CV wrote a paper in March 2007, which, very interestingly deals with the role of various institutions of government and Irelandâ€™s â€˜Celtic Tigerâ€™ economy.
Itâ€™s a long paper, and I donâ€™t claim to have read it all, but in the section The Celtic Tiger Era in Historical Context he provides a good summary of Irelandâ€™s recent economic history from the 1950s to the present day. Since 1987, of course, he says â€˜Ireland has been one of the global success storiesâ€™:
â€œBetween 1987 and the present day, Irish national income per head rose from 65 percent of the Western European EU average to above parity; unemployment fell from 17 percent of the labour force â€“ double the EU15 average of the time â€“ to around 4 percent (around half of the current EU15 average); government debt fell from 120 percent of GDP to around 30 percent, and an increase of more than 70 percent in the numbers at work saw emigration replaced by very substantial immigration.
The factors behind the boom include:
â€¢ Foreign Direct Investment
â€¢ Fiscal consolidation
â€¢ Social Partnership and Competitiveness, and
â€¢ EU Regional Aid
There is plenty of mention about the lowering of Corporation tax but nothing about personal taxation. That has always been a vote catcher. Except that for the PDs it didnâ€™t work.
As a final word, the paper quotes Garret Fitzgerald, a statesman whoâ€™s understanding of politics seems an anomaly within a party which he once led:
â€œDemocratic national governments tend to be subject to such strong pressure from vested interests within their own territories that many of their decisions operate against the interests of society as a whole.â€
If the PDs have a legacy, it is that they failed absolutely in their responsibility to protect the interests of Irish society as a whole against the pressure of vested interests.
That is because, as can be seen with co-location, they were on the side of vested interests all along.