Saturday 22 October 2016

New Government's rainy day fund: Five things it should not be spent on

Published 05/05/2016 | 11:46

Spending: Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy
Spending: Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy

A welcome move, the introduction of a rainy day fund by the New Government - especially after the National Pension Reserve Fund was raided to the tune of €17bn to contribute to the bailout and shore up the banks.

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But will we have learned lessons from the past and what will the fund be used for in the future?

There are no details on it yet, other than it's a Fine Gael plan and it will be introduced if, and when, we have a new government.

Here are some things it should not be spent on:

1. Plugging the hole in the HSE budget. The hole in this budget is growing every day and is projected to stand at €500m at the end of the year. Or overruns in any other department,  for that matter.

2. The banks. If there was one thing that could anger the Irish electorate more than the Irish Water debacle, it would be pumping more state-funds into the banks. Any such move should be avoided at all costs.

3. Which brings us to number three.  Irish Water. If at the end of the nine month or so period that a special commission believes Irish Water should be continued, then let's hope the new Government has the cop not to use any of the special fund to plug holes in this. And there will be holes - direct debiters are cancelling their contributions by the thousands. And we still don't know how a clear, sustainable water system will be funded into the future.

4. Decentralisation: A lighbulb moment for Charlie McCreevy, decentralisation will surely go down in the annals as one of the worst decisions ever taken by a Finance Minister.

Some sites around the country were still being bought up to house Government departments  as late as 2006 - three years after McCreevy landed the idea on an unsuspecting cabinet and public.

The plans were finally shelved in 2011.

The PDs have since gone the same way as decentralisation.

5. e-voting machines:  €55m and ten years later, these machines were finally disposed of in early 2012. They had been trialled in the early 2000s and stored, at a cost to the taxpayer, up to 2012.

Incidentally, they were knocked on the head by the-then environment minister Phil Hogan. Yes, the man who introduced Irish Water.



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