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Country Forecast Ireland November 2017 Updater

Country Forecast Ireland November 2017 Updater

  • November 2017
  • ID: 4981572
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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  • The minority coalition government formed in May 2016 is fragile and unlikely to have the capacity to address the mounting economic and political challenges facing the country. Leo Varadkar, the former minister for social protection, has replaced Enda Kenny as prime minister and leader of the dominant coalition party, Fine Gael, following Mr Kenny's resignation. The Economist Intelligence Unit's baseline forecast that the government will not survive until the end of the parliamentary term in 2021 remains unchanged following the change of leadership. We expect a pre-term general election in the first half of 2018, or possibly the first half of 2019. Voter disillusionment with the mainstream parties is likely to result in a highly fragmented parliament after the next election, which will complicate government formation.
  • Ireland's main strengths are its open policy towards foreign investment, a skilled and flexible labour market, and an attractive corporate tax regime. However, the UK's Brexit vote is likely to have negative economic consequences for Ireland and could complicate relations with the EU and Northern Ireland. Ireland's low-tax regime will also remain under pressure after the European Commission's ruling that tax agreements with Apple, a US technology giant, amounted to illegal state aid. The crisis in the US administration has reduced the risk that Donald Trump will implement campaign pledges of trade restrictions and major tax reforms that could hurt the Irish economy.
  • We expect the budget deficit to widen moderately, from an estimated 0.3% of GDP in 2017 to 1% on average in 2021-22, as solid revenue growth partially offsets higher interest and other government spending. We forecast that upward revisions to GDP in 2015 and moderate primary surpluses during the forecast period (2018-22) will lower the public debt/GDP ratio, to about 58% in 2022.
  • Official GDP figures will remain an unreliable measure of domestic economic activity owing to the substantial presence of foreign multinational companies with headquarters in Ireland. We expect annual average real GDP growth to slow, from 5.1% in 2016 to 4.5% in 2017 and about 3% in 2018-22.
  • The revisions to the national accounts in 2015 have resulted in a similar revision to our balance-of-payments series. We expect the current-account surplus to remain large, but to decline over the forecast period, shrinking from 10% of GDP in 2015 and 4.7% in 2016 to an average of 4.4% in 2017-22, reflecting a widening of the services deficit and the impact on Irish goods exports and real GDP growth of higher global commodity prices and the UK's Brexit vote.

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