OECD publishes Irish report

Before the economic crash, OECD reports on its member countries focused on the structural problems afflicting the individual economies, be it the dominance of a national telecoms company or so-called sheltered areas of the economy which didn’t face competition, including the professions such as lawyers or pharmacists.

Even mild recommendations in its regular round of country reports could unsettle finance ministries around the world, which would seek to influence the drafting of the studies.

The Paris-based think tank then lost a lot of its credibility when it spectacularly failed to warn about the onset of the global financial crisis in 2007.

Prescient research by its own staff warning about overheating of house prices in a number of countries, including the market in Ireland, didn’t get the attention it deserved.

In recent times, the OECD has been supportive of promoting policies that could boost growth and lower sky-rocketing unemployment across its member countries.

It also championed Ireland’s case to secure the deal from the European Central Bank in early 2013 to refinance the crippling annual service payments on the Anglo Irish promissory note into long-term Irish government bonds.

The world’s richest countries also gave the organisation new authority to advise on ways to stop countries and tax havens offering aggressively low tax rates, its so-called major Base Erosion and Profit Shifting study. It continues to publish its country reports.

Tomorrow, OECD secretary general Angel Gurria, launches in Government Buildings, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan, its Economic Survey of Ireland.

When the OECD wrote its last major Irish report, Ireland was still to emerge from its bailout and fully regain access to international debt markets.

It talked about the need then for Ireland to reduce its high public debt-to-GDP ratio and urged the country to push ahead to reduce the high number of non-performing loans on the balance sheets of the banks.

The report echoed the troika in urging the Government to pump up competition in legal services.

It was also a big fan of fiscal measures such as the residential property tax that it said “minimised harm to growth and equity”.

It also renewed its regular calls for the Government to help retrain long-term unemployed and the socially excluded and recommended a rigorous review of measures aimed to boost innovation in business.

The OECD is likely to return to many of these themes tomorrow.


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