Economy of the Republic of Ireland: Wikis


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Economy of Ireland
Liberty Hall Spire and Custom House brighter.jpg
Dublin City Centre
Currency 1 Euro = 100 cent(s)
Fiscal year Calendar year
Trade organisations EU, WTO and OECD
GDP €181.8 bn (2008 est.)[1]
GDP growth -2.3% (2008)
GDP per capita $44,195 (2008)
GDP by sector agriculture (5%), manufacturing (46%), services (49%) (2002)
Inflation (CPI) -6.5% (Sep 2008 to Sep 2009)
below poverty line
10% (1997 est.)
Labour force 2.154 million (2006[2]
Labour force
by occupation
services (64%), manufacturing (29%), agriculture (8%) (2005)
Unemployment 13.8% (January 2010)[3]
Main industries steel, lead, zinc, silver, aluminium, barite, and gypsum mining processing; food, brewing, textiles, clothing; chemicals, pharmacology; machinery, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, ship construction and refurbishment; glass and crystal; computer software, tourism
Exports $102 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)
Export goods machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; live animals, animal products
Main export partners UK 18.6%, US 18.3%, Belgium 14.7%, Germany 7%, France 5.9%, Spain 4.2% (2008)
Imports $65.47 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)
Import goods data processing equipment, other machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, clothing
Main import partners UK 36.8%, United States 13.8%, Germany 9.1%, Netherlands 4.5% (2005)
Public finances
Public debt 41.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
Revenues $92.57 billion
Expenses $109.9 billion (2008 est.)
Economic aid donor: ODA, €735 mn (2005) [Corporate tax]]] 12.5 standard, and 10% for certain manufactureres
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

The economy of Ireland has transformed in recent years from an agricultural focus to a modern knowledge economy, focusing on services and high-tech industries and dependent on trade, industry and investment. In terms of GDP per capita, Ireland is ranked as one of the wealthiest countries in the OECD and the EU-27 at 5th in the OECD-28 rankings as of 2008[4]. In terms of GNP per capita, a better measure of national income, Ireland ranks below the OECD average, despite significant growth in recent years, at 10th in the OECD-28 rankings. GDP (national output) is significantly greater than GNP (national income) due to the repatriation of profits and royalty payments by multinational firms based in Ireland.[5] A study by The Economist found Ireland to have the best quality of life in the world.[6] The 1995 to 2000 period of high economic growth led many to call the country the Celtic Tiger.[7] One of the keys to this economic growth was a lower than average level of corporation tax, currently at 12.5% standard rate and 10% for certain manufacturing companies.

With high growth came high levels of inflation, particularly in the capital city. Prices in Dublin, where nearly 30% of Ireland's population lives, are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country,[8] especially in the property market (but property prices are falling rapidly following the recent downturn in the world economy and its knock-on effects on Ireland). At the end of July 2008, the annual rate of inflation was running at 4.4% (as measured by the CPI) or 3.6% (as measured by the HICP)[9][10] and inflation actually dropped slightly from the previous month.

The Financial Crisis of 2008 is currently affecting the Irish economy severely, compounding domestic economic problems related the collapse of the Irish property bubble. Ireland was the first country in the EU to officially enter a recession as declared by the Central Statistics Office.[11] Ireland was stripped of its AAA credit ranking and downgraded to AA+ by Standard & Poor's ratings agency, due to Ireland's bleak financial outlook and heavy government debt burden.[12] The ESRI recently predicted that the Irish economy will not significantly recover until 2011.[13] Ireland has now been linked with other troubled economies in Europe, known as PIIGS. Ireland now has the highest level of household debt relative to disposable income in the developed world at 190%.[14]



The state was periodically troubled by emigration until the early 1990s. These problems virtually disappeared over the course of that decade, which saw the beginning of unprecedented economic growth, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger." Over the past two decades, the Irish government has implemented a series of national economic programmes designed to curb inflation, ease tax burdens, reduce government spending as a percentage of GDP, increase labour force skills, and promote foreign investment. Ireland joined in launching the euro currency system in January 1999 along with ten other European Union countries. The economy felt the impact of the global economic slowdown in 2001, particularly in the high-tech export sector – the growth rate in that area was cut by nearly half. GDP growth continued to be exceptionally high in international terms, with a rate of about 6% in 2001 and 2002 – and it is expected to continue at more than 4 per cent (2006 onwards). Since 2001, GNI (which measures income to Irish residents rather than output) growth has been much slower.

Since 1993, road transport has been coordinated by the National Roads Authority in the case of the National Primary Routes, which are the most heavily used roads,[15]


Recent developments

Ireland has been in recession since second quarter of 2008 and some commentators have claimed it is in a depression,[16][17] The ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) predict an economic contraction of 14% by 2010 [18], however this number may have already been exceeded with GDP dropping 7.1% quarter on quarter during the fourth quarter of 2008[19], and a possible greater contraction in the first quarter of 2009 with the fall in all OECD countries with the exception of France exceeding the drop of the previous quarter.[20] Unemployment is up 8.75%[21] to 11.4%[22][23]. Ireland has the world's highest gross external debt at 811% of GDP[24] due to the operation of Monetary Financial Institutions [25], Government borrowing and the financial bailout and Nationalisation of one of Ireland's banks[26] which were loaded with debt due to the Irish property bubble.

Bank solvency

The second problem, unacknowledged by management of Irish banks, the financial regulator and the Irish government,[27] is solvency. The question concerning solvency has arisen due to domestic problems in the crashing Irish property market. Irish financial institutions have substantial exposure to property developers in their loan portfolio.[28] These property developers are currently suffering from substantial over-supply of property, much still unsold, while demand has evaporated. The employment growth of the past that attracted many immigrants from Eastern Europe and propped up demand for property has been replaced by rapidly rising unemployment.[29] Irish property developers speculated billions of Euros in overvalued land parcels such as urban brownfield and greenfield sites. They also speculated in agricultural land which, in 2007, had an average value of €23,600 per acre ($32,000 per acre or €60,000 per hectare)[30] which is several multiples above the value of equivalent land in other European countries.[citation needed] Lending to builders and developers has grown to such an extent that it equals 28% of all bank lending, or "the approximate value of all public deposits with retail banks. Effectively, the Irish banking system has taken all its shareholders' equity, with a substantial chunk of its depositors' cash on top, and handed it over to builders and property speculators.....By comparison, just before the Japanese bubble burst in late 1989, construction and property development had grown to a little over 25 per cent of bank lending."[31]

Irish banks correctly identify a systematic risk of triggering an even more severe financial crisis in Ireland if they were to call in the loans as they fall due. The loans are subject to terms and conditions, referred to as "covenants". These covenants are being waived[32] in fear of provoking the (inevitable) bankruptcy of many property developers[33] and banks are thought to be "lending some developers further cash to pay their interest bills, which means that they are not classified as 'bad debts' by the banks".[28] Furthermore, the banks' "impairment" (bad debt) provisions are still at very low levels.[34][35] This does not appear to be consistent with the real negative changes taking place in property market fundamentals.

In contrast, on the 7th of October 2008, Danske Bank wrote off a substantial sum largely due to property-related losses incurred by its Irish subsidiary - National Irish Bank.[36] The 3.18%[37] charge against the loan book of its Irish operations is the first significant write off to take place and is a modest indication of the extent of the more substantial future charges to be incurred by the over-exposed domestic banks. Asset write downs by the domestically-owned Irish banks are only now slowly beginning to take place[28]

Rumours circulated that Spain's Grupo Santander had expressed an interest in acquiring Bank of Ireland but the acquisition was not undertaken when due diligence had been undertaken. This was subsequently denied by Bank of Ireland.[38]

Guarantee of banking system

On 30 September 2008, the Irish Government declared a guarantee that intends to safeguard the Irish banking system. The Irish State guarantee, backed by taxpayer funds, covers "all deposits (retail, commercial, institutional and interbank), covered bonds, senior debt and dated subordinated debt".[39]

In exchange for the bailout, the government did not take preferred equity stakes in the banks (which dilute shareholder value) nor did they demand that top banking executives' salaries and bonuses be capped, or that the banks' board members be replaced.[40]

Despite the Government guarantees to the banks, their shareholder value continued to decline and on 2009-01-15, the Government[41]nationalised Anglo Irish Bank, which had a market capitalisation of less than 2% of its peak in 2007. Subsequent to this, further pressure came on the other two large Irish banks, who on 2009-01-19, had share values fall[42] by between 47 and 50% in one day. As of 11 October 2008, leaked reports of possible actions by the government[43] to artificially prop up the property developers have been revealed.

2009 Budget

On Tuesday, 14 October 2008, the Government presented its 2009 Budget. Current developments point to a deficit of almost €15 billion[44] which amounts to over 10% of GDP despite European Union rules which oblige member states to keep budget deficits below 3% of GDP

In March 2009, Ireland was stripped of its AAA credit ranking and downgraded to AA+ by Standard & Poor's ratings agency, due to Ireland's bleak financial outlook and heavy government debt burden.[45] Standard & Poor again cut the credit rating in June 2009 from AA+ to AA, the move was seen as the Irish economy's worsening situation.[46]


Peat once provided much of Ireland's energy needs

Electrical generation from peat consumption, as a percent of total electrical generation, was reduced from 18.8% to 6.1%, between 1990 and 2004.[47] A forecast by Sustainable Energy Ireland predicts that oil will no longer be used for electrical generation but natural gas will be dominant at 71.3% of the total share, coal at 9.2%, and renewable energy at 8.2% of the market.[47] New sources of supply are expected to come on stream after 2009/10, including the Corrib gas field and potentially the Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal.[48] Added to gas supplies, energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland's economy.[49]


The primary sector constitutes about 5% of Irish GDP, and 8% of Irish employment. Ireland's main economic resource is its large fertile pastures, particularly the midland and southern regions. In 2004, Ireland exported approximately €7.15 billion worth of agri-food and drink (about 8.4% of Ireland's exports), mainly as cattle, beef, and dairy products, and mainly to the United Kingdom.[50] As the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy takes force Ireland's agriculture industry is expected to decline in importance.[51] In the late nineteenth century, the island was mostly deforested. In 2005, after years of national afforestation programs, about 9% of Ireland has become forested.[52] It is still the least forested country in the EU and heavily relies on imported wood.[53] Its coastline - once abundant in fish, particularly cod - has suffered overfishing and since 1995 the fisheries industry has focused more on aquaculture. Freshwater salmon and trout stocks in Ireland's waterways have also been depleted but are being better managed.[54] Ireland is a major exporter of zinc to the EU and mining also produces significant quantities of lead and alumina.[55] Beyond this, the country has significant deposits of gypsum, limestone, and smaller quantities of copper, silver, gold, barite, and dolomite.[56] Peat extraction has historically been important, especially from midland bogs, however more efficient fuels and environmental protection of bogs has reduced peat's importance to the economy.[57] Natural gas extraction occurs in the Kinsale Gas Field and the Corrib Gas Field in the southern and western counties,[58] where there is 19.82 bn cubic metres of proven reserves.[56]

The construction sector, which is inherently cyclical in nature, now accounts for a significant component of Ireland's GDP. A recent downturn in residential property market sentiment has highlighted the over-exposure of the Irish economy to construction, which now presents a threat to economic growth.[59][60][61]

While there are over 60 credit institutions incorporated in Ireland,[62] the banking system is dominated by the Big Four - AIB Bank, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and National Irish Bank.[63] There is a large Credit Union movement within the country which offers an alternative to the banks. The Irish Stock Exchange is in Dublin, however, due to its small size, many firms also maintain listings on either the London Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ. The insurance industry in Ireland is a leader in both retail markets and corporate customers in the EU, in large part due to the International Financial Services Centre.[64]

Welfare benefits

As of December 2007, Ireland's net unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed people across four family types (single people, lone parents, single-income couples with and without children) was the third highest of the OECD countries (jointly with Iceland) after Denmark and Switzerland.[65]

Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit for a single person in Ireland is €197.80 per week, as of January 2008.[66] This compares to £60.50 (~ €77.20) per week for a single person aged 25 or over in the UK.[67]

State provided old age pensions are also relatively generous in Ireland. The maximum weekly rate for the State Pension (Contributory) is €223.30 for a single pensioner aged between 66 and 80 (€423.30 for a pensioner couple in the same age range).[68] The maximum weekly rate for the State Pension (Non-Contributory) is €212.00 for a single pensioner aged between 66 and 80 (€352.10 for a pensioner couple in the same age range).[69]

Wealth distribution

The percentage of the population at risk of relative poverty was 21% in 2004 - one of the highest rates in the European Union.[70] Ireland's inequality of income distribution score on the Gini coefficient scale was 30.4 in 2000, slightly below the OECD average of 31.[71]

Sustained increases in the value of residential property during the 1990s and up to late 2006 was a key factor in the increase in personal wealth in Ireland, with Ireland ranking second only to Japan in personal wealth in 2006.[72] However, residential property values and equities have fallen substantially since the beginning of 2007 and major declines in personal wealth are expected.[73]

Economic ties

Exports play a fundamental role in Ireland's growth and over the last 40 years a string of significant base metal discoveries have been made, including the giant ore deposit at Tara Mine. Zinc-lead ores are also currently exploited from two other underground operations in Lisheen and Galmoy. The combined output from these mines, three of Europe’s most modern and developed mines, make Ireland the largest zinc producer in Europe and the second largest producer of lead.[74] The country is one of the largest exporters of software-related goods and services in the world.[75] Ireland regularly comes near the top in polls of the most enthusiastic Europeans.[76]

External link


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  4. ^ OECD GDP
  5. ^ "Annual Competitiveness Report 2008, Volume One: Benchmarking Ireland’s Performance". NCC. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  6. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life indexPDF (67.1 KB) – The Economist
  7. ^ Charles Smith, article: 'Ireland', in Wankel, C. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Business in Today's World, California, USA, 2009.
  8. ^ Consumer Prices Bi-annual Average Price Analysis Dublin and Outside Dublin: 1 May 2006PDF (170 KB) – CSO
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  14. ^ Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (13 March 2008). "Irish banks may need life-support as property prices crash". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
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  16. ^ Ireland 'technically' in depression...
  17. ^ Ireland's Economy in Free Fall Collapse
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  19. ^ "Health of euro in doubt as output slumps". Archived from the original on 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  20. ^ Euro zone Q1 GDP shrinks 2.5 pct q/q, April CPI confirmed
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  24. ^ The World's Biggest Debtor Nations
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  42. ^ Bank shares lose half their value in market 'carnage'
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