Wednesday 28 September 2016

The Punt: Euro-ney coddin', Mr Juncker

Published 16/12/2015 | 02:30

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker jokes with a Member of the European Parliament ahead of a debate on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: Reuters
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker jokes with a Member of the European Parliament ahead of a debate on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: Reuters

Our gallant allies in Europe have never been afraid to set their faces against the intrusions of mere reality.

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Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker - pictured below joking yesterday -came up with a gem yesterday, telling the European Parliament that it is the democratic chamber of not only the European Union but the single currency.

"I have always said, Mr President, that the European Parliament is the parliament of the euro, and I say it again today. The euro is a political project, and that means it requires political supervision and democratic accountability," he said.

Fine sentiments, at least until you consider the hundreds of MEPs he was addressing from the nine EU member states that don't actually use the euro - including Brits, Danes, Czechs, Poles and Swedes.

By Juncker's account it would appear that the 11 MEPs representing 4.2 million non-euro users in Croatia are providing, proportionately, even greater oversight of the single currency than our 11 Irish MEPs - elected by the 4.6 million people who actually use the money here.

That's an unimportant detail, we suppose, in the grande Brussels scheme of things.

Don't bet on a robo-doc

Readers may remember last month The Punt mentioned comments from Andy Haldane, the Bank of England's top economist, warning that up to 15 million jobs are under threat of replacement by smart machines.

Now he's clarified that some professions won't fall victim.

Computer scientists, doctors and dentists are the jobs least likely to be taken by robots as automation spreads through advanced economies, Haldane said yesterday.

BOE staff found that the first type of employment that can't easily be replicated by robots includes IT engineers, which have about a 1pc chance of being automated, and doctors and dentists, which have about a 2pc chance.

These occupations involve "more than core numeracy, it's being creative as well", Haldane said.

The second type of job includes health, social and childcare, which draw heavily on emotional intelligence, interpersonal and social skills.

"Robots would find it difficult to replicate" these skills, he said.

Altobridge still winding down

When Kerry technology firm Altobridge went into receivership in May last year, it shocked staff and some shareholders of the company.

Intel Capital and the World Bank had the receiver appointed on foot of a secured debt that had been arranged in 2013. The pair had invested a total of $20m in the Irish company.

At Altobridge's Tralee base, 45 jobs were lost as a result of the collapse.

Some shareholders had questioned the reasons for appointing a receiver.

Regardless of the minutiae of the creditors' reasons, the receivers to Altobridge, McStay Luby, have meanwhile done OK out of the crisis. Jim Luby acts as the Altobridge receiver. From May to November 29, 2014, the receiver charged fees of €197,000 to Altobridge, and a much more modest €347 in the following six months. But between May and November this year, the receiver got just under €114,000 in fees.

The report also shows that there was a €1.3m distribution made to secured creditors in the latest period.

Altobridge's software patents were sold by the receiver for $4m in 2014 to iDirect, a unit of Asian firm ST Engineering.

Irish Independent

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