Looking across the pond to Ireland, Americans unfamiliar with the still evolving consequences of Brexit might be inclined to see it as a net positive for the Emerald Isle. After all, it didn't Brexit, but neighbors to the north most certainly did.
The Celtic Tiger is roaring again. After an economic downturn in 2008, Ireland was in dire straits. It was more often associated with the failing economies in Southern European countries than its peers in Northern Europe. In 2015, however, these troubles seem to be a relic of the distant past. Ireland’s GDP has grown at an astounding 7% through this point in 2015, while most of Western Europe is marred in low growth in the 0 to 2 percent growth range. This positive trend in the Irish economy has been spurred mainly by investment from overseas, particularly U.S. pharmaceutical and tech companies. A skilled workforce, and a minimal corporate tax rate of 12.5% has led many of these U.S. corporations to set up their base European operations in Ireland. Companies such as Pfizer, Apple, Facebook, and Google have built up major operations in Ireland’s main cities. Some major US companies have even completed mergers or acquisitions to execute a tax inversion, and move their base of operations for tax purposes to Ireland. Not only are these countries creating jobs and bringing in tax income to help the public financing of Ireland, but they are helping to offset all of the negative aspects that were dragging down the Irish economy.
Ireland’s manufacturing output soared in February. In fact, its growth in this sector reached its highest level in the last 15 years, according to the Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). In analyzing the PMI, any number above 50 indicates manufacturing expansion. In February, Ireland’s PMI increased to 57.5, while the Eurozone’s PMI remained unchanged at 51.0 from the prior month. Ireland’s high PMI score is a result of high growth in manufacturing orders, production, and jobs.
After nearly 16 years, European beef will once again be making the trip across the Atlantic to American stores and restaurants. Ireland and its beef industry have become the first from Europe to be granted permission into the United States market, following over a decade long ban on beef from Europe. The ban resulted from the mad cow disease outbreak in the 1990s, and fears that it could begin an epidemic in the United States. The lifting of the ban could be a big help to Irish farmers, as well as the possible reopening of the United States market to all European cattle farmers.
Ireland has in the works plans to change some of its tax laws. These changes could have radical effects on global companies, who as of right now, are taking advantage of Ireland's “Double Irish” tax loophole. Global companies have been looking for ways to decrease their tax liabilities and have done so by registering their companies in Ireland and moving profits to offshore tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The exact amount of money being sent through this process is not known but is estimated to be around tens of billions of dollars.
Globalization has been the result of many different developments. From the increasing ability to ship goods across the world at low rates to moving manufacturing to achieve lower labor expenses, globalization is an entrenched part of the new economy. Another element factoring into globalization, that is not mentioned quite as much but has played an increasingly large role, is that of taxes.
On paper, it appears that Ireland has fared particularly well through the government’s tough austerity program, which was a condition of the 67.5 billion euro international loan it received during its severe banking crisis. For example, interest rates on 10-year bonds have fallen from 14.5% to 3.5% and newspaper headlines continue to announce the creation of new jobs. However, the austerity program has taken a large financial toll on many Irish citizens, many of whom are barely holding on.
As the world becomes increasingly globalized, workers from around the world are experiencing increased opportunities to work abroad. This is exactly what is occurring in Canada. As the province of Alberta continues to boom economically, Canadian companies are in need of a labor supply. With too few Canadians to fill the extra jobs needed, Canadian firms have begun recruiting internationally. The international recruiting strategy has been very successful as Canadian companies were able to find an abundant supply of workers from the United Kingdom and Ireland. This development in Canada is a testament to the many benefits of international business.
In the midst of the European Debt Crisis that has has toppled governments and pushed a number of countries into a second recession, Ireland has drafted a new plan to save their housing market and keep families in their homes. With house prices on the emerald isle being 50 percent below their peak value, more than half of Irish mortgages worth less than the outstanding debt, and about 39% of homes in default, the Irish government has been forced to take steps that many economists would deem as far too risky to enact. The government is expected to sign a law that would encourage banks to substantially lower the amount that borrowers owe on their mortgages, which could prevent mass-scale foreclosures, and also a blueprint for other nations seeking to resolve their housing dilemmas.
Lately, global news has been dominated by the European debt crisis. This news has been predominately negative and I personally have been looking forward to hearing something positive for a change. Ireland has recently been experiencing moderate economic growth and the budget deficit has since been declining. Germany and France have commended Ireland for making economic strides, and believe that this nation is not far from being out of the crisis.
I have been following the currency markets quite heavily in the past few weeks trying to gage the effects of the much discussed QE2 that the U.S. Federal Reserve implemented. Personally, I was expecting that to lead to more inflation in the U.S. dollar and depreciate its value relative to other currencies, including the Euro. Imagine my surprise when I found that I was correct in inflation being expected by the market (due to high treasury yields) but that the Euro was actually the one depreciating versus the dollar! How could this be?
The Irish love to own their own property and home. In the past 20 years, the value of their homes had for the most part increased dramatically, creating a solid investment in something the Irish cherish greatly. In the past year however it’s been a different story, the bubble finally burst. Most of the property values have been cut in half. Many are now owned by banks, and most toxic loans are bundled into a nationalized body called the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). The government bought out many banks to a tune of 50 billion euro. The bond market in Ireland is in major trouble. Many experts are saying there is a huge need for leadership in not only Ireland’s government, but in Europe as a whole (or the European system may possibly collapse).
The lore of leaving is engrained in the Irish culture. There were 27,700 emigrants this year, an increase of 42%, due in part to unemployment being at 13.7%. In the short run, emigration is just a safety valve. However there is still hope in Ireland. Watch the video to see how George Boyle dealt with her company going bankrupt, and how she stimulated her own micro economy of sorts.