BPEA | 2002 No. 1

Catching up with the Leaders: The Irish Hare

Discussants: Barry P. Bosworth and
Barry P. Bosworth Nonresident Senior Fellow - Economic Studies

Olivier Blanchard
Olivier Blanchard C. Fred Bergsten Senior Fellow - Peterson Institute for International Economics

2002, No. 1

For many decades Ireland’s output per capita ranked about twentyfourth
among the world’s industrial nations. Suddenly, in the mid-1990s
Ireland started to move up, from twenty-second in 1993 to eighteenth in
1997 and an amazing ninth in 1999.1 The many facets of Irish success
over these years, from a disproportionate representation in popular music
to the largest current account surplus in the industrial world, caught the
public imagination at home and abroad. This paper examines the startling
turnaround in Irish economic performance that began in the mid-1980s.
By comparison with Ireland’s previous economic performance there is
indeed a miracle to explain, but from a global perspective the question is