Business Irish

Sunday 22 October 2017

New Era fails to meet State expectations

Richard Curran

Richard Curran

THE Government's big New Era plans for the State commercial sector just aren't taking off. In fact New Era is looking a lot like the old era – as far as the semi-States go.

The State hasn't sold its stake in Aer Lingus. The sale of Bord Gais has been pulled. The mooted Bord na Mona/ Coillte merger hasn't happened either.

New Era began as a huge sweeping job-creation plan, conjured up by Fine Gael when it was in opposition. It was going to be an uber agency that would take over the State's interest in a raft of companies, co-ordinate their activities and revitalise the strategy of the sector.

The reality has been quite different. What does it actually do?

It has a director but not a team of full-time experts who provide corporate finance analysis of State company business plans, mergers and privatisations.

If Bord Na Mona and Coillte are to merge, the minister should tell them to do it, and simply make it happen. They have boards and directors. Surely that is what they are for. It doesn't need New Era.

Who got the timing so spectacularly wrong when it came to selling Bord Gais? It probably wasn't New Era, because it doesn't have executive powers in these matters. Pulling the plug on the sale may even be the right thing to do now, but why was it allowed go so far down the road?

This has ultimately been damaging for the company and probably very expensive for the taxpayer.

But if we are going to postpone privatisations or State mergers, it may be time to postpone the dawning of the New Era too.

Sunday Independent

Also in Business