ESRI Working Paper

How openness to trade rescued the Irish economy

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December 17, 2018
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In this paper we examine the performance of the Irish economy over the period 2008 to 2014. In particular we examine whether the recovery observed was due to the successful adoption of structural reforms in labour and product markets or whether the improved performance was due to a rebalancing of the Irish economy, post 2008, away from the disproportionate influence of the construction (non-tradable) sector and back to the more productive tradable sector? Prior to 2007 had seen the emergence of a significant, property-related credit boom which resulted in the Irish economy being increasingly influenced by the non-tradable sector. This was in sharp contrast to the earlier period of the Celtic tiger, which had mainly relied on export-orientated growth. We use a small open economy DSGE model with a tradable and a non-tradable sector to examine this issue. Our results suggest that the financial crisis acted as a rebalancing mechanism for the Irish economy, with the tradable sector contracting less and recovering quicker than the non-tradable sector. Our model-based simulations indicate that the Irish recovery is mostly export-driven with structural reforms playing a very minor role in stimulating growth in the immediate period after the crisis.