Friday, 23 October 2015

Lessons from Ireland for the debate on investment and consumption

The debate on what spurs economic growth and therefore what policy tools to use is not unique to Britain. As the world economy slows, variations on this debate are taking place in many countries.

A piece on the Irish blog ‘UNITE’s Notes on the Front’ deals with this question from the specific perspective of the current Irish economic and political situation and is written by Michael Burke.

The context is that the general election to the Irish Dáil is less than 12 months away. The current government is a coalition led by the right wing Fine Gael and the Labour Party and has been pursuing austerity policies. But now that an election is in the offing the Coalition has shifted towards boosting consumption in order to get re-elected (much like the coalition government in Britain after 2012). This was the content of the recently announced Budget for 2016.

However, a wide array of forces opposes this agenda. Sinn Féin, some other elected representatives, many in the trade unions and social justice campaigners all argue (with differing emphases) that investment should take precedence. Boosting consumption should be a secondary priority and this should mainly be done by boosting the incomes of the poor and lower paid workers at the expense of the rich and the very highly paid.

There are sound theoretical reasons for this order of priorities, which have been demonstrated by SEB. Moreover, the recent history of the US, which is the Western economic model shows that, as consumption rises as a proportion of GDP economic growth slows and so does the growth rate of consumption. An examination of recent Irish economic history exhibits the same pattern. This is, a high or rising proportion of the economy devoted to investment leads to higher growth, including the growth rate of consumption. A low or falling proportion of investment leads to slower growth, including the growth rate of consumption.

The full piece can be read here.




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