Does John Key still want us to emulate Ireland?

Written By: - Date published: 8:40 am, November 24th, 2010 - 36 comments
Categories: Economy, john key - Tags:

Reading the news on the current plight of the Irish with a economy in a tailspin and a tottering government. I can but reflect that it was a bloody good thing that the National party wasn’t in power after 1999.

For instance, John Key as recently as 2008 was praising the fragile economic model that Ireland followed. Quite simply acting as a service industry center for Europe is something that can be shut down and moved when the business slows. Anything reliant on that type of business also shuts down. This is why the number of real estate people rises and falls depending on the state of the main economy. It is also why Ireland is in the shite.

Personally I’d prefer NZ to be in businesses that actually make things or have a serious level of intellectual property involved in their businesses. The income doesn’t tend to go up as spectacularly being a real estate agent or other similar service economies. But it also doesn’t get cut back the way that the Irish economy has been when their customers aren’t spending on luxuries.

Unlike Irish government, NZ under Labour kept building the capabilities of our economy to its current state of resilience. Of course NACT are in power now and they prefer the short-term solutions of being real estate agents rather than doing the hard work. I wonder what disaster their tugboat is dragging us to.

Here is Steve Pierson on the John Key and his evident idiocy of the recent past.

Key’s plan for NZ to require lots of tug-boats

From Key’s speech to the NZ Institute of Foreign Affairs on emulating the “Celtic Tiger”:

Thirty years ago, Ireland was a total basket case. Today, it has all of the trappings of a considerable economic success story, including the capacity to attract and retain smart, educated, enterprising people.
three key policy initiatives which were critical to this success:

  • They got the tax rates down to really competitive levels.
  • They got infrastructure, especially communications infrastructure, up to an impressive standard, and
  • They made sure the educational institutions were turning out graduates of the high standard demanded by the sectors that were seen as their areas of competitive advantage.

But the most important point is this: all these initiatives were deliberately targeted at leveraging off their most important strategic asset their location on the edge of the European Union.
Leave aside some of the EU subsidies that someone will mention if I do not the secret to Ireland’s success was location, location, location
And that, surely, must be the key to New Zealand’s economic success in the years ahead.

Ok first, you can’t “leave aside” the fact that Ireland’s had EU injections of several billion euros per annum into its infrastructure for 30 years, they’re worth 5% of Irish GDP each year.

But, more importantly, is Key really saying we should emulate Ireland by being on the edge of the EU? To be fair, he’s what he’s saying isn’t that stupid, its more so:

..If we, sitting on the rim of the fastest growing region on the planet, cannot turn that geographical advantage into a significant economic success story, we have only ourselves to blame.
Ireland made much of its location on the edge of Europe to fuel the economic revolution we have seen there, and I believe New Zealand can do much the same in relation to its proximity to Asia

But we are not proximate to Asia like Ireland is to Europe. It’s 10806 bloody kilometres to Beijing. And guess what? It’s only 8275km from Dublin to Beijing.

Key’s a fool if he thinks we are in a position analogous to Ireland. Without its massive advantages in EU subsidies and proximity to markets, adopting Ireland’s high expenditure/low revenue model doesn’t make sense. We should not run our economic policy based on other country’s conditions. What does Key plan to do, move New Zealand closer to China?

36 comments on “Does John Key still want us to emulate Ireland? ”

  1. prism 1

    I have an Irish relation. Talking to him about the present problems there his reaction was that he was proud of the benefits and the standard of living that the Irish people have achieved. I mentioned the input from the EUs agricultural policy but he was dismissive saying that was decades ago. The incentives to businesses to locate there, which may be revealed to be fair-weather friends, and the familiar speculative boom in housing were worth a mention also, but I didn’t bother. I don’t waste time arguing with people whose minds are closed on a subject.

    When things are booming along it seems that there aren’t too many questions about the sustainability even from people who are self-employed and consider themselves wise in business matters and the world as he does. His answer on where to point the finger was that the banks were at fault.

    • lprent 1.1

      The major problem is that the economy there has a lot less diversity in its earnings than NZ has. Most of the recent businesses appear to be service industries for European businesses – mostly based around service call centres from what I can see. At least that is what my Irish contacts are saying.

      The problem with those for a country is that they are on the first round of cuts in a recession. Not a particularly good thing to be reliant on. The pattern of failure in Ireland looks a lot like what happens to our real estate companies whenever the recession hits.

  2. john 2
    Above are very good articles on the incredible Irish Financial mess.From what I have read,living standards really did increase when foreign companies,including manufacturing moved to Ireland so as to get special benefits to trade with the EU due to placement within the EU.Irish workers got much higher wages. Like here people think the road to wealth is property investment and the private banks went berserk borrowing money at interest and lending it out for a property boom bubble which went to crazy heights with a house for example increasing over 500% in just 10 years! As Irish wages increased manufacturing (Good ole NeoLiberal economics!) started relocating to cheaper wage level areas such as Poland! At a point no one could pay the crazy prices for property anymore and the whole shebang collapsed and the speculators couldn’t(Stashed money overseas or in the wife’s account and declared bankrupt!) or wouldn’t pay the banks what they owed. The foreign investors are guilty too for oversupplying the Paddies too much financial Guiness causing them too get plastered out of their skulls and eventually to wake up with a massive morning after hangover–the foreign money suppliers should pay for their irresponsibility!
    But more disaster, The Irish Government(Members of whom) were probably cashing in on the property drunken fiesta of all time got really stupid and betrayed their own people by guaranteeing the private banks private speculative debt (Which was all about getting rich as quick as a Leprechaun(Government being the hapless Leprechaun here!) will show the pot of Gold location when you put the squeeze on him!) owed to other speculators overseas who should now be taking a haircut–This is the immoral side,Why should ordinary people have to pay for the get rich speculators when they fall off their trolley!!? Answer they shouldn’t!
    They could still default and get out of the euro and tell the IMF(financial Nazi squad)and Eu lending bailout agency to leave Ireland pronto:they should!

    • john 2.1

      More comment on Ireland’s NeoLiberal unregulated greed driven high speed financial crash which Patrick Paddy will have to pay for!

      Government’s destruction of Ireland is complete

      We were bought and sold for Europe’s gold
      the dogma of individualism began eradicating Irish society’s old communal ties and, increasingly buffeted by hurricane-force free-marketism, we began to shrink our society until it became a mere economy. On the way down, citizens became mere consumers as the marketers grew increasingly arrogant in their demands.
      Look at what happened in a single generation to Irish obesity levels and look at the profound alcohol crisis that has been inflicted on our society.

      The constituency office of a senior Irish minister was targeted by vandals overnight.
      Several windows were smashed and the word “TRAITORS” was written with red spray paint across the front of the premises of Transport Minister Noel Dempsey.

      • john 2.1.1

        Ireland’s NeoLiberal Train Wreck leads to following consequences:

        A direct and inevitable consequence of this catastrophe will be deepening inequality and, as a direct consequence, the premature deaths of many people.

        I am not talking about merely suicide and mental illness; I am talking about the phenomenon where, in unequal societies, people in the lower echelons of the social pyramid die prematurely – in Ireland’s case, about 5,000 of them annually.
        Of course, there will be more suicides and more terrible tragedies arising from the conscious neglect of the mental health services. The public refusal to acknowledge the consequences of an unequal society is part of the denial that is endemic to our political culture.
        Elsewhere the front gates of the Irish parliament were blocked by a cement truck in September as politicians returned after their lengthy summer recess. The words “Toxic Bank Anglo” were written in red letters along the barrel of the truck.
        Here is an example of capitalism, not just bankrupting us, but killing us off as well.

        • Colonial Viper

          You better tell it to people who give a damn, the capitalist system has no place on the ledger to tally for avoidable deaths, just for return on capital invested.

    • prism 2.2

      They would be afraid to do that John. I would anyway and worry that I wouldn’t even have a potato to bless myself with.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.2.1

        Then they need to ask the simple question: Can they feed themselves? If they can then defaulting on their debt isn’t actually a problem.

    • john 2.3
      Ireland being sucked off into IMF and EU debt Peonage.
      Answer!? Irish taxpayers should not bail out corrupt Irish banks and money grubbing Brit and German Banks who need desperately a BIG financial haircut!!! The PEOPLE must not pay for CAPITAL’s Casino bets gone wrong!!!

  3. James Stephenson 3

    Luckily NZ under Labour didn’t have a currency to adopt that was dominated by economies completely out of step with our own.

    It’s instructive to look back at the warnings that UK opponents of the Euro gave and see how they’ve come to pass in Ireland.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      I haven’t seen a single source that blames this on the Euro. The UK’s in nearly as deep shit, it’s just lucky its banks didn’t take such huge bad bets as the Irish ones did.

      • James Stephenson 3.1.1

        Here’s one from back at the beginning of October (seeing as how you probably wouldn’t accept anything said by a conservative politician):

        • Zorr

          That guys argument boils down to “because we couldn’t control our own currency it made our high growth unstable”

          No you frakkin moron. Your unsustainable high growth made your high growth unstable. The Euro just compounded this.

        • Bright Red

          the ECB rates didn’t cause the credit to flood into Ireland. We had one here too because our rates were high relative to the rest of the world, and an Ireland with the Punt would have had the same problems as we had.

          No, what caused Ireland’s problems was a lack of controls on the finance sector and lending that allowed banks to use all that cheap capital to create the mother of all housing bubbles, which was pricked by the oil price spike.

          • Colonial Viper

            Hot highly liquid capital inflows made it easy for Irish banks to borrow big and borrow cheap from overseas, which they did, and with those stashes of hard currency they could push that hot money onto the Irish population in the form of lots and lots of ill-considered loans, credit cards, etc which they did.

            Yeah then it was only a matter of time, each layer of cards built on the house convinced the punters that another layer of debt could be put on.

          • Jeremy Harris

            ECB/EMU, Irish Banks, Borrowers, Politicians…

            Plenty of blame to go around…

            • Colonial Viper

              Yeah plenty of blame to go around but at the end of the day we are looking at a group of less than 100 key decision makers (at a guess), who have fraked a whole country.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    Ireland’s massive growth masked huge asset bubbles, financial risk taking and a culture of cronyism verging on corruption.

    I know a friend who saw the writing on the wall for Ireland, left a lucrative high tech job and made the decision to return to NZ in 2009.

    And now what is happening? The masses of ordinary Irish people are being made to suffer and pay for the foolishness and stupidity of their extremely highly paid and incentivised politicians, business leaders, economists and bankers.

    Prism: yes the banks were at fault but of course that is only looking at the crash site. The banks were working in a system where bigger profits every year were the only thing which mattered (not how that might be achieved), and whose executives wanted a bigger bonus this quarter than the last, frak sustainability or what the country needed to build robustness against future shocks. So the champagne flowed, and ordinary Irish didn’t question things when their home values doubled and tripled and their leaders told them the good times would last.

    Irish bond holders like the US, UK and big foreign banks who were willing to sell Ireland such catastrophic amounts of debt are also hugely culpable. Ireland is now being charged 8% on their debt. A rate as bad as you and I would be given on a personal loan. Borrow a billion dollars on that rate and you have to pay ~$90M in interest per year.

    Basically the entire country is now paying for the bad judgement of their ‘leaders’.

    • prism 4.1

      I remember reading about a US port and manufacturing town (on the east side I think) left in the doldrums by shifts in industry (bit like Flint of Michael Moore film study) that succeeded in going bankrupt which I didn’t think could be legally done. Could a country like Ireland do that? Business has been given the right to fail and pay cents in the dollar if anything. Are countries and their taxpayers and citizens to be the patsy that has to pay all under the thrall of some ‘dark lords and ladies’ because of a spurious legal contract that is destructive in its performance?

      I remember reading how far organisations will go when insisting on their legal contract fulfilment. In a book on disasters I saw a painfully thin black family in I think Bengal. They had a bad drought. The main food sources of the area had been contracted to feed the British Army. The contract was filled and the people starved.

      The Irish famine had some similarities to that. There was an unreasonable rush by British authorities to withdraw food and support machinery from that country, put in place to assist with a previous year’s famine conditions. A better year’s growth of corn (which wasn’t all available as food for the people anyway) encouraged legalistic, rigid officials to abandon aid for ordinary Irish people’s needs. The way that powerful people will turn away from affordable and proper actions that alleviate, if not solve, people’s real problems surprises as it contrasts with the comforting moral positives we are taught.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Ireland could default on its foreign debt like Argentina did.

        The problem with Ireland is that it has already accumulated a shit tonne of debt and given all the money to the banks. Like you taking on a second mortgage and then giving all that money to your ex-girlfriend. Sorta stupid.

        By defaulting, Ireland could get no new loans and it would have a huge amount of difficulty obtaining foreign goods and paying Government workers. Ireland would probably have to start printing its old currency again for use as it would simply run out of Euros.

        • Bright Red

          i think there are probably EU rules against defaulting.

          • Lanthanide

            Probably, which means it’s up to the EU to create some sort of solution, or kick Ireland out.

          • Colonial Viper

            Rules? Written on bits of paper? While there is a ~30% unemployment/underemployment rate, homeless people begging on the streets and children starving as the bankers get their billions?

            What is Brussels going to do, invade?

  5. prism 5

    Just read Olwyn in Mike with good link on Ireland’s options to the Guardian.

  6. Don 6

    John, I have to agree with almost everything you’ve said. The Irish (and I am one, so I should know) behaved like knackers who had won the lottery, buying second houses, third cars and fourth mortgages to show off how well they were doing. Then of course the bill arrived…

    However: “Look at what happened in a single generation to Irish obesity levels and look at the profound alcohol crisis that has been inflicted on our society.”

    The Irish have been eating shit food for years, I grew up on fry-ups, literally. And I don’t think you can blame Ireland’s drinking culture on the past 15 years. The booze culture was well entrenched when I left in 1987 and the country was even poorer then than it is now.

    • john 6.1

      Hi Don
      I’m Irish descent myself (Parents were from the South) which gave me the confidence to work in some humour on a grim situation. On the drink I remember when I was 7 with my Mother being in a farm house,part of a party, where two younger men went out to get some drink to socialise with and returned with 4 bottles of what looked like water and one of them tipped a bottle up and drank from it as if it were just water but of cause it was Potcheen. Potcheen was used also as a Flu curative mixed with sugar and hot water and then you’d sweat the condition out hopefully. I remember being in my Uncles farm house in Cork in the 50s,he’d just got a TV for the first time, it sat on top of a chest of drawers and we looked at it like an alien ufo just landed! It was rumoured my uncle Paddy had his own Potcheen still somewhere,it was freely available!

      It’s a shame Ireland fell into the trap of highly risky borrowing and secondly the government should not have put the Irish taxpayer behind bailing out the banks! That’s what bankrupt means surely!?The Euro has been blamed because,apparently, the Irish Government could not put up interest rates to choke off the lending by the banks for property,which concluded rising property prices here.

      Another time getting an inexpensive lift in a postoffice van into Cork which was delayed while an escaped Bull moved out of the road!

      My favourite beer over there was Celebration Ale, probably discontinued by now!

  7. Jeremy Harris 7

    Our current monetary system strikes again, plus the ridiculous government bailout, even the Madhatter of Alice fame as MoF would have chucked that one out…

  8. RobertM 8

    Yes, but it is not just the financial crisis and the international bankers who are the Irish problem. possibly they wanted to have it both ways- an open market, but highly priced agriculture and high priced cities in terms of drink and food. Certaily they lived like kings in the l990s and early in the 21C. Aucklands backpackers and bars were full of the young southern Irish at that time. Some spent a month running wild in Aucklands bars before anyone thought about moving away from 24 hour opening. mariane Faithfull moved there and Pallenburg doubtlessly thought of doing so. Nevertheless U2 and the boomtown Rats were from the distant past and I’m not really shore Ireland wasn’t going out of fashion anyway- because it was a bit too pricy and a bit too catholic and local. When I talk about the need for a more liberated society I’m not talking mainly about the economics but the need for a 24 hour party society in Auckland to appeal to tourists on their OE and it being somewhat more hetro and bi amd modern and less a Suva +.

  9. moni 9

    At a time when many Wall St banks are closing proprietary trading desks

    due to the growth of supercomputer based
    algorithmic trading

    many former prop traders are reinventing themselves as trading coaches

    Now we have one of these firms advertising locally for the desperate and the gullible, with an example of a person who has doubled his pension trading forex.

    Their IP ( is in Ireland.

    What is MSD policy on this ?

    90% of proprietary traders are said to lose their capital in the first year.

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