GDP still dangerous facing into Brexit

By Eamon Quinn

Two years after the “leprechaun economics” jibe the CSO has developed a range of alternative measures providing a more realistic picture of the economy and more accurate levels of the indebted government finances.

Irish national accounts came under the spotlight in the summer of 2016 when revised figures purportedly showed GDP had surged by over 26% in 2015, a rate of growth that said more about the accounting of multinationals based in Ireland than Irish households then still surfacing from the effects of the debt crisis.

The GDP growth was artificially boosted by multinational global tax planning and by the billions in the balance sheets of the huge aircraft leasing firms, as well as by the supply chains of foreign-owned firms even though the factories were actually far away in Asia.

Yesterday, officials delivering revised growth figures for 2017 can definitively say the economy as experienced by most households is significantly smaller.

Indeed, in 2017, it was €113bn smaller than “the GDP economy” of the multinationals.

Headline GDP growth rates that portray an economy powering ahead by 7.2%, purportedly the fastest growing in the EU, is still growing strongly, but at the slower pace of between 3% to 4%, economists say.

There are still issues that won’t go away, no matter the method used. GDP figures which flatter the true level of prosperity and deflate the true level of public debt do Ireland no favours. There may be little sympathy from EU partners despite the damage and the costs required to insulate the economy from Brexit.

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