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July 2017 Archives

Water Meters Down the Drain

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In the light of the Drogheda water supply failure, it is worthwhile marking the water meter debacle by estimating its cost and placing this in context. 

The total cost could hit €714 million covering meters (€574 million), conservation grant (€90 million) and related administration for billing, grants and refunds (say €50 million). This 'sunk cost' equates to 13 per cent of Irish Water's capital expenditure plan for 2014-21 and ignores the recurring benefits that would have accrued if the same amount had been invested in productive leak-prevention or supply-security projects.

The €714 million can be compared with about €200 million expended on the HSE's PPARS computer system and €54 million lost on e-voting machines, to name just two recent financially-challenged projects,

Letter published in the Irish Times on 26th July 2017,

Economic & Health Statistics

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Introduction by the CSO of a modified version of Gross National Income (GNI) to minimise distortions caused by multinational activities should have a profound impact on planning and performance measurement in Ireland.

The CSO estimates that modified GNI for 2016 was only about 69 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). On this basis, the ratio of government debt to modified GNI was an unsustainable 106 percent in 2016 as compared with a more moderate 73 percent based on GDP.

Drilling down into the economy using modified GNI reveals many other unfavourable ratios. For example, according to the OECD, the ratio of Ireland's health expenditure to GDP was 7.8 percent in 2016 and we ranked 24th highest of 35 countries.

If modified GNI is used instead of GDP, this ratio jumps to 11.4 percent and our cost ranking rises to third place behind the US and Switzerland and ahead of highly regarded German, Swedish and French services.

As anyone who uses our health service knows, this ranking makes little sense and  begs fundamental questions about the sector's costs, efficiency, case mix and underlying demographics.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 18th July 2017.

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