PUNT: Paul's perky about new role
Paul O'Toole has obviously brewed up a storm in Nicaragua. Bewley's procurement director has just been named the Honorary Consul in Ireland for the central American country, which suffered heavily from civil war during the '80s.
He was awarded the role in recognition of Bewley's "long-standing ethical trading relationship and commitment to the sustainability of coffee-producing communities in Nicaragua", says the blurb. The Punt thinks it's all very commendable.
Bewley's sources a third of its coffee from the country. Last year, coffee was the top export from Nicaragua, accounting for $519m in sales.
The Nicaragua-based export and trade body Cetrex notes that last year, beef was the second-biggest export from the country, with gold at third place.
All this is at odds with the CIA World Factbook, mind you, which says that apparel and textiles account for nearly 60pc of Nicaragua's exports.
But then, it's hard to know what to think about what the CIA says about Nicaragua, given the history.
Meanwhile, the workload associated with O'Toole's new appointment is likely to be reasonably light, unless there's some sort of unexpected diplomatic intrigue.
The Central Statistics Office notes that in 2006 there were just between 10 and 50 Nicaragua-born nationals resident in Ireland and that hadn't changed by the time the latest census was conducted in 2011.
Still, our man in Dublin is no doubt relishing the role.
Business confidence on the up
BUSINESS confidence is stabilising among financial professionals, according to a new survey.
The latest Global Economic Conditions survey, from the ACCA and the Institute of Management Accountants, shows confidence in Ireland fell only marginally, with 19pc of respondents reporting confidence gains, and 45pc saying they were as confident as before.
The ACCA points to what is seen as a strengthening labour market and fewer businesses laying off staff as signs of a flattening in the economy.
The report matches anecdotal evidence The Punt has seen in recent weeks as well. It is hardly a case of "green shoots" yet, but there is a definite sense that while growth may still be some way off, the worst of the downturn has passed.
Consequently, money that had been on the sidelines for the last few years is beginning to filter back in to certain areas of the economy.
Looking at 2013, ACCA Ireland head Liz Hughes believes there are more reasons to be optimistic about the global economy.
"The rising employment levels, an end to the slowdown in China, a less volatile situation in Europe and a temporary resolution to the US fiscal cliff crisis are all positives which should impact the global economy in the year ahead.
"Ireland's economy depends on overseas investment, but it remains to be seen how the global economy will impact on Ireland in future months."
You can count on Ciaran
THERE are some assignments The Punt really enjoys, and some that are not very attractive at all.
Alas, covering Oireachtas committee hearings can often fall into the latter category. Too often these hearings, which should form an important part of our democratic process, descend into farce as one politician after the next ignores the topic being discussed to bloviate about their local constituency.
Usually the TD or senator will take up far too much time and not make any relevant point. Consequently, hearings that could be over in an hour or two can take twice as long.
That is why we have a soft spot for finance committee chairman Ciaran Lynch, who imposes strict time limits on how long his committee members can speak. That policy continued at a meeting of EU finance committee chairs in Dublin yesterday, when Mr Lynch limited comments to two or three minutes, complete with a countdown clock on screen.
There were times yesterday when speakers either didn't have good enough English to get their point across in time, or they weren't allowed to repeat their point if they tripped over their words.
The Punt applauds Mr Lynch's efforts, but there is a happy medium to be found. Don't let them rant, but do let them speak.