It’s all a bit hysterical here at the moment. You can’t turn on the radio without somebody telling you that we are all DOOMED!
I asked Mr. Waffle (fount of all knowledge, as you know) what happened to the soft landing we were promised and he tells me that “it turns out that the fundamentals weren’t sound after all”. That’s alright then.
I had lunch during the week with a very pessimistic friend. He has just remortgaged his beautiful house so that he can make it even more beautiful (extension, underfloor heating, walls taken apart to put in insulation – couldn’t he just have put on another jumper, seriously?). He is worried about what will happen should Ireland go bankrupt. What will happen to his beautiful house? He gloomily prophesied that Mr. Waffle would have to go back to Brussels and send remittances to keep us all afloat.
I had a friend for the Princess round. She is a little German girl (if you were German, would you put your child in an Irish language school?). Her parents came too. We talked about the economy (what can I say, it is all pervasive). They were recruited from Germany for the boom. Ah, I joked, you should move to Poland now; apparently, Poland is the new Ireland. “Actually, our company is moving to Poland,” they said. He has taken redundancy and they are moving back to Berlin as soon as he finds a job there. And how, we ask ourselves, is their daughter going to keep up her Irish?
Dell had a big plant in Limerick and they are moving to Poland. My cousin will lose his job. The Irish Times had a big feature on workers in Lodz and how they are taking the news. I must say they seemed very realistic about it all. Dell will probably move somewhere else in ten years. They are leaving Ireland now, later they will leave Poland. In some way, I think we fooled ourselves about foreign direct investment. The Americans love Ireland we said to ourselves and we all speak English, their companies will stay forever. I suppose if they were that indifferent to cost and related considerations, they could just have stayed at home. Anyhow, I don’t see the Poles saying “there’s a big Polish community in Chicago, they’re bound to stay here because of their traditional links with Poland”. Meanwhile, a man made redundant by Dell was showing extreme stoicism to the Irish Times “Nobody will starve to death”. I suppose not.
It’s funny because it doesn’t feel like a recession to me, not like the 1980s. My sister and I went to dinner on Wednesday night. It was raining. I had booked a table for two. When I went in, the restaurant was empty. Aha, I thought, the recession strikes. Fifteen minutes later, the place was heaving. In the early 90s we had “jobless growth”. We kept getting told that things were getting better but unemployment was not falling and it didn’t seem like things were getting better. Now we have jobless growth in reverse.
I listen a bit to Radio 4 and there the talk is also of recession but in a much more relaxed manner – has Gordon Brown’s spokesman rung in the middle of any show to ask them to stop creating panic – I think not (probably too busy analysing poll data). I read an article somewhere that said that poor people who get richer lack the “inter-generational security” of the middle classes. Ireland lacks the inter-generational security of the middle classes. We’ve only been rich for ten years and we just have the national pension fund to call on when times get tough.
I have started reading an Irish economics website. I’m not sure why since it only depresses me. However, there was recently some much needed relief from the storm clouds that the website likes to whip up (collective noun for economists anyone – a correction of economists, a downturn of economists, a recession of economists, a depression of economists?). A contributor called Jim O’Leary was marking papers and generously gave us the following gem from one of the next generation of economists:
From the frontiers of knowledge (yes, it’s grading time again): “Fiscal contraction was first noticed in the 1960s by a man by the name of Fiscal and it was him who derived the short, medium and long run effects of it and how they would occur and the reasons for it…”
Thank you, Jim, for drawing this to the nation’s attention when we needed it most.