TH€ PUNT: Fat cats try to keep the cream
IF you are hanging around Merrion Square in Dublin you just might hear some hushed voices.
That sound is senior mandarins whispering in the ears of ministers about pensions.
The Sir Humphreys are engaged in a fierce battle at the moment to protect their own fat-cat pensions.
They are fiercely opposed to any budgetary moves to cap the size of pensions that can be built up from tax reliefs.
There is a proposal that the size of an an annual pension would be restricted to no more than €60,000. Instead, the senior civil servants would prefer to see the tax reliefs for investing in a pension cut from 41pc to 20pc.
These well-paid mandarins do not care that more than 550,000 ordinary workers would be out of pocket from cutting the tax reliefs. So it will be interesting to see who wins this one.
Will Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton side with the well-paid people who advise them, or will they stuff middle Ireland?
Remember, these people have already hit private pensions with a levy that is exacerbating the problems for thousands of company retirement schemes.
And middle-income public servants, such as teachers, would also be big losers if the tax relief on pension saving drops to 20pc.
Some hard choices will have to be made in the next few days.
Full State Street story still unheard
TWO years ago, Willie Slattery lashed the National Asset Management Agency in a radio interview in Kilkenny, when he told listeners that NAMA was "crazy", too secretive and could waste as much as €15bn.
Mr Slattery, a former Central Bank regulator who has morphed into a grandee in Irish financial circles and a senior State Street executive, surprised many people by bravely complaining that it was "not credible" to put so many assets into one agency "with no transparency" and potentially subject to political influence.
Mr Slattery's comments caused quite a stir at the time. Two years later, NAMA's parent body was compelled to tell the Dail that State Street had acted "fraudulently" and had been reported to the gardai and the Financial Services Authority.
Mr Slattery, who had nothing to do with this debacle, may still be worried that organisations such as the NTMA and NAMA are excluded from Freedom of Information legislation.
But it is a safe bet that some of his colleagues are very relieved indeed that the full story of State Street's actions will never see the light of day.