The following extract is taken from The Making of the Celtic Tiger: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Boom Economy. Dublin. Mercier Press. (2000). It is Padraic White’s own account of the development of the Irish Financial Services Centre.
In the middle of 1973, the IDA launched international services as its latest product. At the time, this category included both technical consultancy services and computer services. However, within the IDA’s own research unit, work continued to identify and analyse other service products, including those n the financial-services area. One of the economists engaged in this task was Ken O’Brien, who later, as founder of Finance magazine, would provide specialist coverage of the Dublin financial centre. Our New York office befriended a Wall Street lawyer, Bob Slater, who was familiar with the then-exotic world of offshore banking – the reasons why banks set up in specialist offshore centres, the kind of financial activities undertaken there and the nature and number of jobs created in this developing sector.
As manager of the planning unit, I agreed to take on Bob Slater, both as a financial consultant on financial services to IDA and to produce a study of offshore banking systems. His report examined the success of Bermuda in creating jobs in financial services, and he was satisfied that Ireland could emulate its achievement. And so in 1978 – innocently, in hindsight – we set out to promote international financial services to the world, and did so on a pilot basis to test-market the reaction. The IDA executives embarked on their selling mission, armed with the expert conclusions of the Wall Street expert.
During the year the IDA team soon landed some big fish in the form of two US banks that had developed specific job-creating proposals. However, the agreement of the Central Bank was first needed. Michael Killeen* considered the proposals sufficiently important for himself to go with Jerry Kelly, who was negotiating the projects, and myself to make the case for Central Bank authorisation. The reaction was not encouraging and we left the Dame Street offices feeling rather dejected. We could not give the required assurances or promises of authorisations to our foreign bank clients. The projects died and we ceased to do any more financial-services promotion. Subsequently, it emerged the bank no stomach for the projects and would not approve them. However, the IDA could never get a clear reason for this. The most authoritative word which came back indirectly was that the Central Bank believed the offshore financial projects ‘smacked of a banana republic.’ (pp.323-4.)
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This is a rushed translation of an interview with Franco Berardi (Bifo), conducted by Amador Fernández-Savater for the Interferencias blog on eldiario.es, published 27thFebruary.
What is the context in which the Italian elections have taken place?
The political disintegration of Europe. Europe was born as a project of peace and social solidarity, taking up the legacy of the socialist and internationalist culture that opposed fascism. In the 90s, finance capital's major centres of power decided to destroy the European model and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty unleashed the neo-liberal assault. In the last three years, the anti-Europe of the ECB and Deutsche Bank seized the opportunity of the 2008 financial crisis in the US to transform the cultural diversity of the European continent (its Protestant culture, gothic and communitarian, its Catholic culture, baroque and individualist, its spiritualist and iconoclastic orthodoxy) into a factor of political disintegration of the European Union; and above all in order to make labour resistance bow completely before capitalist globalisation. The drastic cutting of wages, the elimination of the 8 hour limit to a working day, labour precarity among young people, the postponement of retirement for older people and the privatisation of services. The European population has to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system because debt functions as a gun pointed at the backs of workers.
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The following are the upcoming showings this saturday, but check out the full program for February, March and April here.
Saturday 23rd February: Urban Finance and Suburban Sustainability
The New Theatre • 43 East Essex St Temple Bar • Dublin 2
2pm: The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004)
Since the Second World War, Americans have invested much of their new-found wealth in suburbia. It promised a sense of space, affordability, family life, and “upward mobility.”
As the suburban population exploded in these years, the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness: it became part of the American Dream. But as we entered the 21st century, serious questions began to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life.
- Directed by Gregory Greene.
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As part of the launch of Irish Left Review Journal
Who Benefits from Austerity?
Councillor Catherine Connolly
Dr. Conor McCabe
A Talk in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Middle Street Galway
Thursday, 28th of February 2013, 6-8pm
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These scanned pages are intended as an aid to research into the world of finance in Ireland. I’m going to try to post as much of the primary and secondary source material I come across as I can. The purpose here is purely educational.
Some quotes, just to give a sense of the articles below.
First, from Ray Douglas, group general manager, Treasury, of Allied Irish Banks, talking about Dublin’s biggest dealing room (January 1988, pp.37-38):
The commissioning of our new 80-position dealing room is Bankcentre is only the latest step in a long association between Allied Irish Bank and the global financial markets. In the mid-1970s AIB identified the emerging global financial markets as a major business opportunity for the bank… Our objective is to make AIB a significant niche player in the markets, trading on our own account, providing liquidity to the markets and acting as market maker in some specific areas…
During the 1980s the emergence of the new global financial markets in securities and in off-balance sheet instruments such as SWAPS* and FRAs** has provided a further range of opportunities for AIB.
**Forward Rate Agreement
Ireland had been hot-wired into the world of swaps, derivatives and other off-balance sheet activities for at least twenty years before the crash of 2008. This was no ‘bad apple’ scenario.
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The Counter-Summit Phenomenon – Forums for resistance and alternatives
Since the anti-globalisation movement of the late '90s and early 2000s, wherever the political representatives and economic thinkers of capital met, they encountered protest and opposition. From Seattle to Genoa, tens of thousands turned out to demonstrate against institutions like the WTO, G8 and EU. The anti-worker and environmentally unsustainable implications of their free trade and neo-liberal agenda were exposed.
With the understanding of the limitations of the model of protests at summits across Europe, came the rise of counter-summits. Generally called Social Forums these were an opportunity for socialists, trade unionists, environmental activists and others to meet. They represented an attempt to go beyond simply protesting against these institutions and to formulate alternatives as well as to discuss strategies for resistance.
The World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in Brazil which 12,000 people attended opened the process of the WSFs. It was followed with successful events in Athens, Mumbai, Nairobi and elsewhere. After playing a vital role in mobilising for the demonstrations on 15 February 2003, where tens of millions marched against a war on Iraq, the summits suffered a general decline, becoming somewhat disconnected from the real struggles happening around the world.
The model was successful in opening an important discussion, but it also contained within it an important contradiction that was always present in the anti-globalisation movement. This was the tension between an approach that was fundamentally reformist, aiming to curb the worst excesses of globalisation and capitalism and a more consistent anti-capitalist position. The formal exclusion of political parties did not keep out the various NGOs connected to Social Democracy and the reformist ideas associated with them, while revolutionary socialists were not able to openly organise.
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1. Motivation and history of the movie
Marxist theorists, beginning with Marx himself, did much to illuminate how capitalism moves, to reveal its laws and demonstrate the necessity of its replacement by socialism, when it becomes a hindrance to historical progress. This criticism was always applied “from outside”, starting from the class position and perspective of the proletariat, the class destined to overthrow the capitalist system, and aimed at orienting the actions of that class towards the directions dictated by the broader social conflicts of each period. In his latest film, “Le Capital” (“Capital”), Costas Gavras –Karim Boukercha and Jean-Claude Grumberg also contributed to the screenplay– proceeds to give a catalytic criticism of capitalist globalization from within, a criticism which, though not focusing directly on the social and class struggles of our time, is still, in its way, highly penetrating and effective.
“From within” in no way implies that Gavras contents himself to show the decay and corruption of the world of capital, to write the record of its decline and to highlight its manifestations in the lives of its representatives. All these things certainly abound in his film. Yet had he limited himself to that, it could result to an improved version of soap operas like Dynasty, even making the representatives of capital likable within their degradation. The film is mostly an anatomy of capitalism’s general objective motion, taking an X-ray of the banking and finance system, whose impunity triggered and impels the current global economic crisis. But if Marx had presented the inexorable logic and inevitable results of this movement using the objective language of science, here its reality is refracted through the artistic prism in a realistic representation of the world of its actors, the leaders of modern capitalism.
Gavras is undoubtedly not only an extremely gifted, but, in the best sense of the word, a militant filmmaker whose entire work contributes positively to the understanding of the conflicts and meaning of our times. In “Le Capital” we can see though the climax of his creativity. Having started from uncovering authoritarianism, anti-democratic aberrations and conspiracies of the holders of power, the engagement of the state with para-state apparatuses, etc. in films like “Z” and “Missing”, he ends up here capturing and reconstructing the molecular processes of capitalism which inevitably generate these results. A look at the occasion and history of the film, as recounted recently by the director himself in an interview he gave to the Greek newspaper Vima, will better clarify his intentions and motives.
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The crisis that began in late 2007, and which seems to be continuing for the foreseeable future, has highlighted the role of global wholesale financial markets in creating what may be described as new dependency relationships. Old dependency theory was a structural-Marxist theory. It hypothesised that the world capitalist economy is structurally arranged to facilitate massive transfers of capital from developing countries to the developed world. The new dependency theory agrees that net outflows of capital from developing countries have been continuing unabated for the past three decades. But—and this is a key difference between new and old dependency theory—these illicit flows are a problem not only for developing countries but also for developed ones.
This is so for two reasons. First, the net flow of capital is not necessarily transferred to or invested in the developed world. Rather, the transfer of financial resources from developing countries joins a large pool of capital registered in offshore locations. Second, there is evidence that developed countries are subject to net external outflow of capital as well. In contrast to old dependency theory, the new theory suggests that capital transfers do not necessarily operate on a regional or intra-national basis; rather, wholesale global financial markets have emerged as gigantic re-distributive machines that play a key role in the continuing and growing gap between rich and poor world-wide.
In developed countries, the main detrimental impacts of illicit flows are growing income inequalities and a weakening and narrowing of the tax base, as effective (as opposed to nominal) tax rates by corporations and rich individuals decreases continuously. For developing countries these problems are compounded further: they include poor governance structure, a large black economy, lack of capital for basic infrastructural projects, and over-reliance on foreign aid money that generates harmful political-economic dynamics.
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I have to put up the latest and greatest episode of the Live Register.
It's an excellent exploration of the Irish financial services sector and its exaggerated yet highly influencial role in the Irish economy. It talks about the Clearing House Group, Hedge Funds, tax avoidance and transfer pricing, the origins of the IFSC, light-touch regulation, ultra low tax, what happened to Depfa Bank, Brass plate companies, the reality behind the employment myth in financial services and much much more.
Guests include Shane Brett, Harry McGee and Professor Jim Stewart.
Here is Jim Stewart's 2006 article “Financial Flows and Treasury Management Firms” which was mentioned in the interview. In the study of 41 Treasury firms he found that in many there was a median employment of zero.
“A treasury management subsidiary is a common feature of MNCs. Treasury Management firms are the conduits for the global movement of intra-firm financial flows by MNCs. They often form part of a complex organisational structure whose immediate parent may be located in a tax haven (Stewart, 2005). (pg3)
A database of all Irish registered companies was searched in order to identify Treasury management firms. Ultimately 41 firms with available accounting data were identified. These firms are of considerable economic interest. The median size in terms of gross assets in 2002 was $379 million, median profits in 2002 were $6.3 million ($9.6 if those reporting losses are excluded) but the median number employed was zero.(pg4)”
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We are constantly assured (warned) that ‘everything is on the table’. All manner of tax increases and spending cuts are being considered, and none are ruled out in principle. So, goes the script. There is one issue, however, that is not on the table. It is not even in the room. It is not even in the house or lurking around the grounds. And that issue is the corporate tax rate. Why?
If we increased the corporate tax rate, this would undermine our ability to attract foreign direct investment. This, in turn, would result in fewer jobs being created and put current jobs at risk; further, it would lower exports which would skewer our balance of payments. All that value-added and economic activity would be jeopardised.
Before we confront this argument, let’s first look at how successful multi-nationals (MNCs) are in racking up profits in Ireland (also, this analysis from Michael Burke is also worth a read). From this, we might get a sense of how sensitive they would be to an increase in the corporate tax rate. For, in truth, they are really really racking up the profits.
Ireland is not just a league-leader, it is off the chart. MNCs here make more than four times the profit per employees than the average of the other EU-15 countries reporting (no data for Belgium or Greece). No wonder more and more multi-nationals are making Ireland their home. It should be noted that this Eurostat data does not include the financial sector so the massive profits being made in the IFSC are not included. Nor does the above include taxation – we’ll come to this later.
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Maybe I’m getting paranoid but I can’t help feeling that we’re being primed to blame the incoming Obama administration if our inflow of foreign investment starts drying up, resulting in massive dislocations in our economy. …
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Does anyone believe the Government know what it’s doing? I’m not talking about the budgetary U-turns or that sinking sensation one gets when viewing images of the troika of Lenihan, Coughlan and Cowen on our…
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It’s raining medical cards – in the nightmares of the Fianna Fail backbench TDs. What were they thinking? Is the €100 million savings worth the political disaster the Government has brought on to itself? €100…
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With the Dail debate playing in the background, some notes on what Brian Lenihan insists is not a bail-out.Professor Morgan Kelly relates an incident at a conference he attended: ‘Bankers are well known for getting…
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