Wednesday, March 9, 2011
New Irish Government
Details of the new Irish government is here with Michael Noonan being the Minister for Finance and Brendan Howlin taking the role of public sector reform minister. Joan Burton takes the Social Protection role. People calling that a demotion of sorts obviously understand a lot more about politics than I do and a lot less about economics. This is an extremely key role and she will oversee major changes in how unemployment is dealt with in Ireland. Richard Bruton will take the other main economic portfolio of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Frances Fitzgerald takes a full cabinet position for Children. Ruadhri Quinn will be education and skills minister. James Reilly, a medical doctor, will take on the role of Minister for Health. Willie Penrose will have responsibility for housing and planning. A lot of other departments have been merged. To the extent that politics can impact on the wider world, this really is a historic Dail and there is certainly an opportunity to correct a lot of the failures of the Irish economic development model, while also a very stormy financial climate that creates all manner of threats known and unknown. Without any cynicism or political partisanship, I wish the new Taoiseach and his cabinet well. If I had one thought that comes from partially obsessive study of the economics literature over the last fifteen years or so, it would be "invest in people stupid". One of the key questions for this government will be whether an economic collapse must translate into human welfare failures. There is abundant evidence that this need not be the case and even a glance of the Irish mortality distributions will show that some of the major breakthroughs in Irish history occurred independently of national income levels.