Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers - Gross National Product.

Bertie Ahern

Question:

4 Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, there are to introduce quarterly GNP statistics. [3578/97]

The CSO has started preparations for the production of quarterly estimates of the main components of the national accounts, including GNP. Some new quarterly inquiries into stock-building and investment have been initiated. However, a substantial lead-in time is needed to develop the methodology and to collate new data. It is envisaged that the first results will be published during 1999 both in current and constant prices. These will include some retrospective data.

Quarterly GNP statistics are required for the purpose of operating the stability pact, which the Irish Presidency negotiated last year. Recession is internationally defined as two quarters of negative growth in succession. Will the Minister explain how the stability pact will be operated in 1998 if we do not have the statistics?

Let us not enter into the area of policy. The question deals with statistics.

I very carefully designed it as a statistical question rather than a policy question.

As I explained in the reply, there is a lead-in time. We are in the process of meeting two of the requirements laid down, that relating to the revised system for national accounts and the exact data needed to establish our qualification for economic and monetary union. As part of the lead-in we have taken on board a number of requirements — for example, we are undertaking quarterly inquiries into stock-building and investment. We are confident that 1999 will be the terminal date and that we will be able to bring the required data on-stream on a quarterly basis before that date. We are not the only country in Europe that does not hold quarterly surveys. Other member states such as Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg are in the same position, but in their own way they are addressing the issue and will bring quarterly data on stream to meet the 1999 requirement.

Will the Minister request the CSO to go through the stability pact and see the other areas with which we need to comply? Obviously, when the documents were prepared the CSO was not consulted because there are a number of areas where it is out of line with what we can produce, even though we negotiated it during our EU Presidency. The CSO should look carefully at what is being agreed to and ensure we comply with the statistical data, otherwise we will be in grave difficulty and out of line with other countries who say they will have this data ready by 1998.

I am confident we will have the data in advance of 1999. I have already said that we are already making the adjustments in relation to capital investments and stocktaking.

We are moving towards quarterly surveys across a range of areas. I have already indicated that from this year we will have the quarterly labour force survey. These are not the only surveys being carried out. Other interim tracking measurements are being used to gauge our performance in other areas. All of those help to give a composite picture. The fact that it will be 1999 at the outside by the time the data comes onstream does not mean the targets will not be reached in the interim. We already have a fair body of statistical data as regards meeting the various requirements. A huge volume of data is assessed on a regular and quarterly basis. I will bring the Deputy's comments to the attention of the CSO.

Has the CSO taken account of the other economic indicators alluded to by the Minister of State in the light of the limitations of GNP in measuring both good and bad factors in society's welfare? Which indicators is the Minister alluding to when he mentions other information apart from GNP?

The Deputy will be aware there is a debate at present on the relevance of certain figures, whether it is GNP, GDP, GNDI or whatever will be the accurate indicator of performance. As a Government, the most relevant one is GNP, because the various items of income and expenditure are factored out or in to provide the most accurate database. The GNP is the most accurate because profits which are repatriated outside the country are taken out and income that accrues to the country by way of investment outside of the country by Irish nationals is brought in. That is the most accurate indicator of the performance of the economy and the amount of money that is available for spending within the economy.

I am concerned about the time factor. We should be dealing with priority questions. We should dispose of question No. 5 as quickly as possible.

asked the Taoiseach the percentage growth in GNP in Ireland and the United Kingdom in each of the years from 1987 to 1995; and if he will give a cumulative growth estimate for that period as a whole. [3663/97]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables:

Table 1: Growth Rate of Gross National Product at Constant Market Prices.

Ireland

%

1987-1988*

2.6

1988-1989*

5.4

1989-1990*

7.3

1990-1991*

1.9

1991-1992

2.0

1992-1993

3.0

1993-1994

7.4

1994-1995

7.3

Cumulative 1987-1995

43.1

Source: CSO National Income and Expenditure 1994 and 1995.

* Calculated on basis of ESA 79 (European System of Accounts); later years based on revised methodology ESA 95.

The following data was provided by the UK Office for National Statistics. The growth rates are based on the figures published in the United Kingdom National Accounts, 1996 edition.

Table 2: Growth Rate of Gross National Product at Constant Market Prices.

UK

%

1987-1988

5.1

1988-1989

1.9

1989-1990

0.0

1990-1991

–2.2

1991-1992

0.0

1992-1993

1.9

1993-1994

4.9

1994-1995

2.2

Cumulative 1987-1995

14.4

Source: UK Office for National Statistics

I thank the Minister of State for the information, which I wanted to prove a point. Does the Minister of State agree, based on the statistics he has given to the House and Ireland's better growth record of the past ten years, there is no evidence to support the British Prime Minister's continuously repeated anti-European contention that a deregulated economy functions better than a social partnership in a consensus one? Perhaps his colleagues in the British Embassy will examine the statistics to prove my point.