March 2009 Archives

Time to Nationalise Banks?

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It is self evident that as the economy lurches into an ever deepening recession, every possible measure should taken to ensure that credit is readily available for viable projects and credit-worthy borrowers. It is just as evident that this cannot be done by a lame-duck banking system which is being pulled in several directions - to lend more, protect shareholder value, ration credit to improve ratios, hoard resources to cover future bad debts, and make guarantee and recapitalisation payments to the state. More ...

Sharing Economic Pain

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Your editorial (16th March) about Oireachtas reform stated that the question is not whether there should be cuts, but how deep cuts should go.

For starters, the Minister of Finance should announce an immediate reduction of about one-third in the salaries, pensions and other perks enjoyed by politicians and across the upper reaches of the public service. This might seem Draconian, but it would only deflate a big bubble and bring things into line with other comparable countries with which Ireland is expected to compete.

If the Government makes such an announcement on or before budget day, it will send the clearest possible signal to the electorate and international observers that it understands the seriousness of the situation and is leading by example.

If it fails to do so, there is every chance that it will not secure the electorate's support for the budget measures. In these circumstances, it is possible that even more painful medicine will be imposed unilaterally by the ECB or IMF as a precondition of a financial bailout.

Letter published in Irish Times on 23rd March 2009.

Economy & Taxation

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Last year the Minister for Finance advanced the 2009 budget by three months as the Government's main response to the emerging economic crisis. He indicated in his budget speech that the economy would decline by less than one per cent and unemployment would average 7.3 per cent in 2009.

If these figures justified an early budget, surely the expected 6+ per cent decline in the economy for 2009 and an actual unemployment rate of 7.7 per cent for last December justify immediate budgetary action rather than a fifteen month gap to the next budget.

Much play has been made by the Government that top earners pay the most tax and that huge numbers don't pay any tax. According to Revenue's Statistical Report for 2007, 661,000 tax cases had gross incomes of less than €15,000 a year and, as might be expected, paid minimal taxes totalling €14 million on gross incomes of €4,744 million.

If, ignoring the social consequences, their effective tax rate of 0.3% could be increased by 10% to 10.3%, an additional €474 million would be raised. At the other end of the spectrum, 81,000 people had gross incomes in excess of €100,000 a year and paid taxes totalling €4,353 million on gross incomes of €16,065 million. If their effective tax rate of 27% increased by the same 10% to 37%, a total of €1,606 million could be raised.

Surely, it is unnecessary to wait for the Commission on Taxation's report to see that, in this time of crisis, tax rates should be increased as soon as possible for those with the highest after-tax incomes.

Letter published in the Irish Times on 4th March 2009.

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