Out of the sudden death of the Celtic Tiger in 2008 when the Irish Economic Boom came to a juddering halt has developed the world’s most surreal Economic Forum: Kilkenomics. Set in Ireland’s hidden gem, the charming medieval city of Kilkenny it capitalises on the recent dolorous events by mixing Economics with Comedy or does it mix Comedy with Economics? Discuss. It combines up-to-the-minute economic analysis with raucous no-holds-barred comedy. It sounds like a strange mix but it works. Maybe that’s because this unique hybrid event takes place in Ireland where, even in the teeth of adversity, folk see the funny side of life.
This year the fourth edition of Kilkenomics brings together some of the world’s leading economists, financial analysts and media commentators with some of our funniest, sharpest standup comedians. It has been called “Davos with jokes” and the organisers don’t disagree with that assessment. The standups put the economists under the spotlight to talk through crucial issues such as the prospects for the Irish economy in 2014, what happens after the Troika leaves and what’s happening with the global economy.
The Financial Times, the world’s preeminent economics newspaper and the most credible financial publication, which is read by the world’s most influential decision makers is this year’s global media partner for this small economics festival in Kilkenny. This means that the eyes of the world will be on Kilkenny. Some of the most influential writers and columnists in the world of business will be writing from the city and the festival in the first week of November. For the festival it is a great development, because we aim to give it global flavour while keeping it in a local setting. According to the Financial Times, the partnership is not undeserved. In its review of the festival last year, the FT wrote the following:
“All weekend, Kilkenny’s theatres and bars were packed for what is probably the only comedy economics festival on earth. Kilkenomics has been described as ‘Davos with jokes’ and ‘Davos without hookers’. It may be a model for the world. Some of the speakers are big-shot American economists. But they came unpaid, and once in Kilkenny, far from global power, everyone sheds their guru status. It’s such a small place that almost any pub you stumble into, however far past midnight, was bulging with famous economists in T-shirts gabbing with ordinary punters. Most tickets to events cost from €5 to €15. This wasn’t a Goldman Sachs investors’ conference.”
Kilkenomics began four years ago and was born out of Ireland’s traumatic deep-dive recession after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the autumn of 2008. The following year, the Irish economy, previously lauded as “the Celtic Tiger”, contracted by an eye-watering 6pc and has since failed convincingly to recover. While the country pulled out of recession in the second quarter of this year, unemployment remains above 13pc, with spending depressed by tax rises and salary cuts. During the boom-times of the early-2000s, Ireland’s banks had been extremely lax. Balance sheets were so stretched that when the property bubble burst, the hole in the banking sector was huge – an estimated €64bn, or €14,200 per person.
The first of the eurozone “peripherals” to emerge successfully from a bail-out, Ireland is presented as a success story. Yet massive challenges remain. Household debt is twice annual GDP. Mortgages in six-month arrears are at a record 17pc. House prices, while picking up in Dublin, are almost 50pc below their 2007 peak. As an open peripheral trading economy Ireland is still negotiating trick economic waters which, unlike Kilkenomics may yet prove to be no laughing matter.
KILKENOMICS 2014 Thursday 6th November to Sunday 9th November – See more at:
11 The Spires, Dean Street, Kilkenny, Ireland
Today, powered by its readers and contributors, from its cyber eyries in Ireland and the centres of the Irish Diaspora The Eagle casts its Cold Eye on Life and Death and much in between.