Category Archives: Contract Manufacturing

31/7/15: Irish 1Q 2015 Growth: Quarterly Growth in GDP and GNP

Having looked at sectoral growth contributions for 1Q 2015 and trends in annual (y/y) growth rates in GDP and GNP, let's take a look at quarterly (q/q) growth rates.

On a quarterly basis:

  • GDP at constant prices was up 1.365% q/q in 1Q 2015, which is up on 1.235% growth recorded in 4Q 2014 and on 1.206% growth in 1Q 2014. So we have acceleration in quarterly growth in GDP. We now have five consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth with rates of growth all statistically above zero. Good news.
  • GNP, however, posted a decline in q/q growth of -0.762% in 1Q 2015, which contrasts with 3.43% growth q/q in 4Q 2014 and with 1.554% growth q/q in 1Q 2014. This is the first negative growth quarter for GNP after four consecutive quarters of expansion.

Chart above also shows how dramatically higher volatility in GNP growth figures has been in recent years. Over the entire history of the current series (from 1Q 1997), quarterly GDP growth volatility (measured by standard deviation) stood at 2.0076. This fell to 1.42225 over the period from 1Q 2011. So volatility in GDP growth declined over the recent period compered to historical. The opposite happened with GNP, which had historical volatility of 2.24441 and volatility since 1Q 2011 of 2.6658. So volatility increased for GNP.

Let's look at business cycle data. First, chart below shows contractions and expansions based on GDP q/q growth figures alone:

Next, using both GDP and GNP figures:

The two charts above reinforce the argument that we do indeed have a pretty robust recovery, with 4-5 out of the last 5 quarters on solid expansion trend based on both GDP and GNP, five on basis of GDP alone.

So on the net, the results on a quarterly basis are weaker than on the annual basis, with GNP posting an outright contraction. One consolation is that GNP decline of 0.762% q/q in 1Q 2015 is much shallower than Q4 and Q2 2013, as well as all other cases of declines from Q3 2008 on.

However, negative growth in GNP is worth looking closer at, which I shall do in subsequent posts, so stay tuned.

31/7/15: Irish 1Q 2015 Growth: Annual Growth in GDP and GNP

As promised in yesterday's post, I am continuing to cover the latest data on Irish National Accounts for 1Q 2015. In the first post, I looked at GDP at Factor Cost - the sectoral activity feeding into GDP headline numbers.

This time around, let's take a look at real GDP and GNP trends.

First - y/y growth  rates:

  • Sectoral activity (measured by the GDP at Factor Cost) added some EUR2.47 billion to the real GDP increase in 1Q 2015 compared to 1Q 2014. This resulted in total real GDP growth of 6.51% y/y in 1Q 2015, up marginally on 4Q 2014 annual rate of growth of 5.98% and significantly higher than 1Q 2014 annual rate of growth of 4.13%.  This is strong performance and the good news. 
  • From the top headline number, we now have third consecutive quarter (from 3Q 2014) when 4 quarters cumulative output is in excess of pre-crisis peak levels in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. Which is very good news too. Ironically, on GNP side, we now have four consecutive quarters of cumulated 4Q output in excess of pre-crisis peak. Overall, 1Q 2014 marks the seventh consecutive quarter of positive y/y GDP growth.
  • Meanwhile, GNP posted 7.27% growth y/y in 1Q 2015, which was, imagine that, slower than 9.00% expansion recorded in 4Q 2014, but faster than 4.30% growth in 1Q 2014. 
  • Normally, we would be exceptionally happy with this rate of GNP growth, but since 2013, GNP figures carry substantial 'pollution' from accelerated tax optimisation schemes known collectively as contract manufacturing. Still, faster growth in GNP than GDP suggests that a lot of growth this quarter is coming from organic, real growth on the ground, although we cannot tell how much exactly.
  • Overall, we now have the seventh consecutive quarter of y/y growth in GNP, which is good.

As long-term trends go, the chart below illustrates ongoing recovery in GDP and GNP

As far as the obvious point goes: there is a strong trend recovery in both series, which (sadly, I have to repeat this) is good news. One interesting thing to note is that trend for GNP recovery leads trend for GDP recovery. The reason for this is less pleasant than we like to think: instead of increasing contribution to activity from domestic economy, much of this lead is driven by changes in MNCs tax optimisation schemes, under which:

  1. External activity is being booked into Ireland under 'contract manufacturing' schemes; and
  2. Many profit-generative activities by MNCs are turning into cost-centre activities (booking higher costs into Ireland).

The latter point can be seen by looking at the relationship between GDP and net factor payments abroad, illustrated below in the form of declining share of GDP accounted for by profits & royalties repatriation abroad. This trend is likely to continue and accelerate as MNCs get to more aggressively use our latest tax 'innovation' - the knowledge development box.

Thus, the chart above gives us some, very indirect, indication of how dodgy are our GNP statistics becoming. Though, more on that in subsequent posts.

In addition to the net income outflows, the chart above shows the trend of declining GDP/GNP gap. Current 1Q 2015 GDP/GNP gap is at 18.07%, against the average over 2013-present of 17.28% and a 3mo average of 15.58%, which suggests two driving factors: higher GDP activity and increased outflow of booked profits, alongside exchange rates effects. The latter factor is important as it further compounds multiple distortions in the data from the MNCs.

In summary, evidence continues to show strong growth performance both in GDP and GNP in real terms, with some lingering questions as to the nature of this growth in relation to the MNCs activities here.

Stay tuned for quarterly growth analysis.

25/3/15: As Bogus Is, Bogus Does… IMF on Irish MNCs-led Growth

The IMF has published its Article IV consultation paper for Ireland and I will be blogging more on this later today. For now the top-level issue that I have been covering for some time now and that has been at the crux of the problems with irish economic 'growth' data: the role of MNCs.

My most recent post on this matter is here:

IMF's Selected Issues paper published today alongside Article IV paper covers some of this in detail.

In dealing with the issues of technical challenges in estimating potential output in Ireland, the IMF states that "Irish GDP data volatility and revisions make it difficult to assess the cyclical position of the economy in the short-run. Ireland’s quarterly GDP growth data are among the most volatile of all European Union countries, more than twice the variability typically seen."

The IMF provides a handy chart:

And due to long lags in reporting final figures, as well as volatility, our GDP figures, even those reported, not just projected, are rather uncertain in their nature:

However, as IMF notes: other structural issues with the economy, besides poor reporting timing and quality and inherent volatility, further 'complicate' analysis:

"Multinational enterprises (MNE) accounting for one-quarter of Irish GDP can vary their output substantially with little change in domestic resource utilization. As shown in a recent study, MNEs represent only 2.1 percent of the number in enterprises in Ireland but slightly over half of the value added in the business economy. MNE output swings, sometimes related to sectoral idiosyncratic shocks (e.g., the “patent" cliff” in 2013...), can occur with little apparent change in
domestic resource utilization."

In other words, there is little tangible connection between output of many MNEs and the real economy. And the latest iteration of tax optimisation schemes deployed by the MNCs is not helping the matters: "The sharp increase in offshore contract manufacturing observed in 2014 is another example of such a shock. Such shocks to the productivity of the MNE sector may be best treated as shifts in potential GDP, because the result is a change in GDP without any significant change in resource tensions or slack in the

But MNCs are important for Ireland's tax base, right? Because apparently they are not that important for determining real rates of growth. Alas, the IMF has the following to say on that: "Swings in the value added of MNEs contribute substantially to variations in Irish GDP. Yet such swings are not found to have a significant effect on [government] revenues."

How big of an effect do MNCs have on the real economic growth as opposed to registered growth? IMF obliges: "The gross value added excluding the sectors dominated by MNEs behaves quite differently from aggregate GDP in some years. For example, in 2013 it grows by 3 percent at a time when official GDP data
were flat." In other words, the real, non-MNCs-led economy shrunk by roughly the amount of growth in the MNCs to result in near-zero growth across the official GDP.

However, since 2013 (over the course of 2014) a new optimisation scheme emerged as the dominant driver of manufacturing MNCs-led growth: contract manufacturing. IMF Article IV itself contains a handy box-out on that scheme, so important it is in distorting our GDP and GNP figures. Per IMF: "In 2014, multinational enterprises (MNEs) operating in Ireland made greater use of offshore
manufacturing under contract."

A handy CSO graphic illustrates what the hell IMF is talking about:

As covered in the link to my earlier blog post above, "Goods produced through contracted manufacturing agreements are treated differently in the national accounts than in customs measures of trade. As these goods do not cross the Irish border, they are not included in customs data on exports. If, however, the goods remain under the ownership of the Irish company, they are recorded as exports in the national accounts. Payments for manufacturing services and patent and royalty payments are service imports in the national accounts, offsetting in part the positive GDP impact of contracted manufacturing."

And to confirm my conclusions, here is IMF on the impact of contract manufacturing (just ONE scheme of many MNCs employ in Ireland) on Irish growth figures: "Contracted manufacturing appears to have had a significant impact on GDP growth in 2014 although it is difficult to make a precise estimate. Customs data on goods exports rose by 2.8 percent y/y in volume terms in the first nine months of 2014. In contrast, national accounts data on exports rose 12 percent in the same period. The gap between these two export measures can be attributed in part to contracted production, but could also reflect other factors like warehousing (goods produced in Ireland but stored and sold overseas) and valuation effects." Note: I cover this in more detail in my post.

"Assuming conservatively that contract manufacturing accounted for about half of the difference between customs and national accounts data, the implied gross contribution to GDP growth in the first three quarters of 2014 from contract manufacturing is 2 percentage points. However, there is a need to take into account the likelihood that service imports were higher than otherwise, but it is not possible to identify the volume of additional service imports linked to contract manufacturing."

One scheme by MNCs accounts for more than 2/5ths of the entire Irish 'miracle of growth'. Just one scheme!

And now… to the punchline:

Update: Seamus Coffey commented on the 2013 figure for domestic (real) economy cited above with an interesting point of view, also relating to the broader issue of the Contract Manufacturing: and his blogpost on the subject is here: