DEBT INSURANCE RISE 'WARNING INDICATOR' - There was quite a stir caused over the weekend by an economist called Simon Johnson. He is a Professor at MIT's Sloane School of Management and runs a website for economic debate called Baseline Scenario. He has joined the list of those linking Ireland's economy to Iceland's.

He recommended last Friday, when the cost of insuring Irish debt rocketed to another record high, that the 'Irish problem' be a matter for debate at the G7 meeting of leading economies.

While economists at home say this is over the top and irresponsible, he sees his words as having created healthy debate.

Mr Johnson said he saw the Irish economy in the context of wider problems in the euro zone. He said membership of the euro gave the economy some basis for stability in terms of currency, but the property boom and collapse had put the Irish economy 'out of synch' with other big euro zone economies, who did not want to cut interest rates too much.

Asked about why he singled out the Irish economy, Mr Johnson he had looked at European credit default swap spreads - the cost of insuring debt - relative to Greece, which was in 'pretty bad shape'. He said it was striking last week that Ireland's spreads went higher than Greece's last week, and these were a key warning indicator for economies.


'INVEST IN SMALL FIRMS' CALL - The Irish Brokers Association wants to see the pool of assets in which pension funds are invested widened to include small business.

The credit crunch means the banks are not lending as much as small businesses need, so if something like the BES scheme were extended more businesses could be kept afloat.

Ciaran Phelan, financial services director of the Irish Brokers Association, said 10% of pension fund assets could be invested in private Irish companies. Asked about risk, he pointed out that venture capital funds had performed very well compared with more traditional funds.