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April 2008 Archives

Funds for Infrastructure

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I wish to link Minister Dempsey claim that the Exchequer doesn't have a "red cent" for a much needed hospital in the north east to Richard Curran's report (6th April) that the National Pension Reserve Fund is the 15th largest sovereign investment fund and one of the few funds not financed by rising oil and commodity revenues.

The National Pension Reserve Fund secures 1% of GNP each year to help fund pensions after 2025. Valued at €21.3 billion at end 2007, it lost 1.8% of its value in the final quarter of 2007 and probably lost a multiple of this in the most recent quarter. More discerningly, the Fund, as recently as December 2007, was increasing its investments in volatile emerging markets, property and overseas private equity from 7% to 21% of the Fund's overall value by end 2009.

All this begs the question as to why the Government is borrowing well over a billion euro a year specifically for the Fund to make risky overseas investments and, at the same time, deploying expensive Private-Public Partnerships and massive tax breaks to help finance critical national projects. This is analogous to a heavily-mortgaged householder borrowing further money to invest in risky overseas shares for pension purposes while using a reduced salary to pay a premium price for essential roof work on top of an ongoing annual toll to the contractor.

This makes absolutely no financial or economic sense. Surely it would be better to legislate a "contributions holiday" for the Fund and divert future payments €1.6 billion a year of "red cents") towards much-needed, major infrastructural projects that could be progressed more quickly and kept in public ownership where they ultimately belong.

This letter was published in the Sunday Business Post on 13th April 2008.

Restoring Confidence in Politics

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One of the most troubling things about the Taoiseach's resignation has been the headlines in the international media which used words like resignation, scandal, payments, allegations in various combinations. This damage to our reputation must be urgently addressed by the incoming Taoiseach along the following lines:

  1. Take the long overdue Ethics Bill in the current Dail session.
  2. Introduce legislation to protect all whistle blowers in lieu of the current patchwork sectoral approach.
  3. Roll back changes and charges relating to Freedom of Information and broaden its coverage.
  4. Give more powers to Dail committees to conduct investigations along the lines of the Public Accounts Committee.
  5. Establish a Dail Committee to confirm all significant Government appointments to State boards etc.
  6. Preclude Ministers from signing non-essential orders or making appointments once an election has been called.
  7. Clear up all the obvious flaws governing donations to politicians before and during elections.
  8. Follow up on the Standards in Public Office Commission's recommendations.
  9. Require that the accounts of political parties be audited and placed in the public domain.

These measures would kick start the process of restoring the electorate's confidence in the political system and politicians.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 5th April 2008. 

The Taoiseach & The Tribunal

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The most unsettling thing about the Taoiseach and his finances is the failure of judgement being displayed by the governing parties. The Taoiseach should have been "urged" to step aside long ago to facilitate due process and to avoid distracting from effective government of the country. Instead, ministers sat on their hands while burying heads in the sand.

In fairness, the Taoiseach has been a victim of the "no resign under any circumstances" syndrome which permeates Irish politics. A higher standard would have allowed him to step aside with no imputation of wrongdoing and to fight his corner with greater freedom. As a consequence, the country is now being run, if that word can be used loosely, by a distracted government which places parties first, shirks collective cabinet responsibility and betrays the electorate's trust. How can ordinary citizens register their disgust other than by voting No in June?

Letter published in the Irish Times on 2nd April 2008.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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