Tuesday 25 April 2017

The Punt: The truth about sinking debt

Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Mark Condren
Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Mark Condren

In another pre-election boost for the Coalition, gross government debt has fallen below 100pc of the value of the economy for the first time since the bailout just over five years ago.

Although the fall below the psychologically important barrier has been well flagged for some months now, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) confirmed yesterday that in the final three months of last year, gross debt dropped to 99.4pc of GDP, €204.2bn.

Net debt stood at 80.8pc of GDP, €165.9bn.

But don't be fooled and assume that the drop in the debt-to-GDP ratio is due simply to measures from Finance Minister Michael Noonan, inset, to reduce the debt pile.

The growth in the national economy is behind the fall.

In Budget 2016, the Department of Finance forecast that the gross debt-to-GDP ratio would fall to 97pc last year, slipping to 92.8pc this year and 90.3pc next year.

But the level of the debt in monetary terms will actually increase.

In monetary terms, the debt for last year is expected to be €203.8bn, rising to €207.1bn this year and €210.9bn in 2017.

600 added to lobbying act

Almost 600 returns have been submitted as part of the first wave of the new Regulation of Lobbying Act.

The act requires all lobbying activity undertaken between September and December of last year to be reported no later than tomorrow.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that 568 returns had been filed under the new act.

Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) chief executive John Carroll said that a large majority of its members understood what the act meant.

"More than 170 members of the PRII attended one of our 14 intensive half-day workshops on compliance with the act.

"Our recent annual survey showed that 87pc of members were satisfied that they understood the obligations of the act."

As well as the act, Carroll outlined plans the PRII has to extend its own code on lobbying.

"The PRII is the only professional body in Ireland that has a specific code of conduct for public affairs and lobbying. This code was introduced in 2003, and at our AGM next week proposals are being made to further update it. Members of the PRII are bound by that code," Carroll said.

Property execs for the IDA

The Punt sees that the IDA is on the hunt for two property consultants to help it with its current €150m capital spending plan for buildings.

The capital funding plan runs from 2015 to 2019 and will help the IDA deliver new advance buildings, strategic sites and business park investment.

"As part of the implementation of this capital investment programme, IDA property has a requirement to appoint additional resources by way of consultancy appointments for a three-year fixed-term contract," the IDA says in request for tenders.

The consultants will be based at IDA's Athlone office and will, naturally, be expected to travel nationwide on their quest for the €150m to be spent wisely.

No doubt the IDA will be trying to avoid a repeat of last year's debacle where landowner and farmer Thomas Reid successfully battled the State agency and the State itself for trying to compulsorily purchase 72 acres of property, including his family home, outside Maynooth, Co Kildare.

The Supreme Court overturned a previous decision by the High Court to allow the purchase to go ahead. The land adjoins the Carton House Estate and the massive Intel site.

Irish Independent

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