You may or may not have already heard or read about the launch of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) yesterday morning, a new economic think-tank funded by a number of trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. As a resource for the left, it is very welcome indeed.
NERI purpose is to provide information, analysis and economic policy alternatives, and is named in honour of Dr Dónal Nevin, scholar, trade unionist and socialist who gave a life of service to the common good, as described in the introduction to its quarterly publication, Quarterly Economic Review. There is a website, NERI Institute which will be populated with plenty of very useful information and economic analysis in the coming months and years. One such is the Quarterly Economic Facts, a regular downloadable one-stop shop of facts and figures about the economy, which will make it far easier to respond to spin and obscurantism of much of the economic comment coming from the media and political establishment.
The main focus of the launch and the subject of the first Quarterly Economic Observer is the proposed €15 billion stimulus and investment programme aimed at creating jobs, boosting demand and aiding economic recovery in the South, with a further £5 billion investment programme for Northern Ireland.
From the press release:
The Director of NERI, Dr Tom Healy described the investment programme as “a realistic prospect that could contribute significantly to economic recovery. Crucially, the programme of investment over five years will not add one cent to the Government debt or be an additional burden on the taxpayer.
“In reality, it could generate resources for the Exchequer through the creation of new jobs and by boosting domestic demand.
“The funds for the investment programme can be sourced from our own National Pension Reserve Fund; private Irish pension funds – most of whom have their resources invested overseas – and from the European Investment Bank (EIB),” Dr Healy explained.
Writing on Progressive Economy.ie Tom Healy points out that the “key message and conclusion based on research to date” is that:
- fiscal austerity is killing the domestic economy
- unemployment – especially youth – is the main social problem confronting the EU
- Ireland is still deficient in key areas of infrastructure – energy, water, retrofitting, broadband and provision of early childhood care and education.
- An investment stimulus of €15bn over 5 years would begin to reverse some of the negative impacts of fiscal austerity to date.
- Such a stimulus could be sourced from public, private and EU (EIB) sources in such a way as to avoid adding to General Government Debt. It could also lower the public sector deficit as a result of tax buoyancy and lower unemployment costs.
Some key points being made in the Quarterly Economic Observer are:
- The latest IMF forecasts for unemployment indicate a rate in excess of 10% of the workforce until at least 2017.
- The latest CSO data indicate continuing contraction in the domestic economy and no noticeable reduction in the rate of unemployment.
- Various agencies and commentators including the National Competitiveness Council, the OECD and the European Commission have identified telecommunications, energy and water infrastructure as key weaknesses for the economy.
- There is an urgent need to generate confidence through investment in people, communities and skills. A frontloaded, targeted, strategic and temporary investment of €20 billion over five years is proposed – €15 billion in the Republic and €5 billion (=£4.2bn) in Northern Ireland – to begin to reverse the negative impacts of fiscal austerity.
- We have reviewed the literature on multipliers for investment in this small open economy and have come up with some interesting new results on how many jobs could be created in the short-turn as a result of a private-public investment strategy.
As has been said here before, the resistance to such comprehensive measures within government are not based on economic arguments of any substance, which regularly calls forth the highly inaccurate comparison of the national economy with that of the common household budget. Instead it is based on the priorities of class and power, and appears to be facilitating the interests of certain ‘key’ individuals who are the beneficiaries of rather stunning special treatment.
While the purpose of NERI is not to challenge that power directly, it might help to put the tools required to develop new solutions into the hands of Irish workers and citizens. Maybe it will even help trade unions begin a fight back. Here’s hoping.