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September 2005 Archives

Dail Productivity

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When the Dail resumes today, it will have sat for just 58 days this year -equivalent to about 1.5 days per week. As a benchmark, UK MPs are paid about the same as TDs notwithstanding much larger effective constituencies (66,000 versus 18,000) and Parliament sitting for 150+ days a year versus 90+ for the Dail. Based on the latter, UK MPs offer seventy percent better value than TDs.

In any other context, this divergence would be viewed as a rip off. To resolve these matters, the Dail should be obliged to sit for four full days a week and forty weeks a year following the next election. If this doesn't suit prospective TDs, then they shouldn't stand for election.

This letter was published in the Irish Times on the 1st October 2005.

Providing for Pensions

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The Minister's concern about the poor uptake of pensions should be seen in the context that all workers are already contributing over 20% of their income tax to pensions. Unfortunately, it is not always for their own pensions. About half their contributions pay the "gold-plated" pensions of public servants and politicians, and the balance is hoovered up by the National Pension Reserve Fund. This assessment takes no account of tax relief granted to the wealthy self employed to create massive pension funds used for estate planning.

The following suggestions would put fairness into national pension arrangements and help resolve the looming pensions crisis:

  1. The next round of benchmarking should take full account of the cost and value of public sector pensions. This means that staff should be given the option of maintaining current pension rights with salary reductions to cover the full cost of entitlements, or of holding current salary levels and funding their own pensions on a discretionary basis. In addition, the State should progressively introduce self-funded schemes for all its employees.
  2. There should be a cap of, say, a million euro on the value of tax-deductable contributions to a pension fund for any individual.
  3. State organisations with pension deficits, amounting to a billion euro, should be required to sort these out internally and not be baled out by the taxpayer and by raising prices to consumers.
  4. The role of the National Pension Reserve Fund should be clarified as regards the expected distributions between public sector and social welfare pensions. Indeed, a fundamental reassessment of this organisation should be conducted in the context of our surging population and given that invests over a billion euro a year aboard while the State has a deficit in infrastructural funding.
  5. As TDs and Ministers are amongst the best paid and, probably best pensioned, in the world, they should fund their own pensions over and above a basic scheme. The sums involved are not large but there is a principle involved and a lead to be given.

This prescription is likely to be painful but, as everyone knows, it is better to start pension planning earlier rather than later. So, before introducing mandatory pensions, the Government should create an equitable starting point.

Privatising Healthcare

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Why is the State offering extraordinary returns to investors in the health sector when it can easily raise the finance at less than 3% per annum? How can the Government justify subsidies of up to 47% by way of tax breaks to investors in hospitals *AND* then, on top of that, having to make annual payments to these investors to cover rents, fees, dividends, interest and profits? It is nonsense for investors to suggest that the State would gain from the resultant PAYE and VAT as it would be getting these if it financed the hospitals in the first instance.

In relation to the proposed replacement of Crumlin children's hospital, you quoted the Minister for Health (Wednesday 7th September) as saying that she would investigate innovative ways to get the hospital in place quickly and that there is a lot of interest in the provision of healthcare facilities. Is this Harneyspeak for the provision of tax incentives to investors to build and operate the new hospital with all its implications for costs, prices, standards, ethics and access?

It is time for our socially-conscious Taoiseach and opposition parties to put a stop to this creeping privatisation which is unwanted and unnecessary. If replacement of Crumlin is so urgent, why were public funds not released years ago as sought by the Pollack Report, New Crumlin Hospital Group and many others.

Tongue in Cheek

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I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about RTE's latest series, Rip Off Republic, which features a standup comedian and a large audience which laughs hilariously at his vile jibes. He imparts a verbal stream of cheap shots and below-the-belt digs at many important national institutions, industries and individuals.

Subjects of abuse have included ministers, TDs, publicans, importers, builders, taxation, government policies and competition rules.

RTE should be severely censured for broadcasting such drivel under the guise of a factual program and the offended should be offered a right of reply to rebut the scandalous and outrageous insinuations about their alleged high prices, weak policies and unscrupulous behaviour. 

I'm so incensed that my tongue is stuck in a cheek.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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