Business World

Sunday 4 December 2016

What could Ireland buy with Apple's €13bn?

Published 30/08/2016 | 12:58

The €13bn that Apple has been ordered to pay to Ireland is the largest bill for back-tax ever issued by Europe.

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We don’t have to spend it all in one shop – but here are a few suggestions for Michael Noonan: 

1. GOODBYE USC

Much of the political debate last week focused on whether we can afford to abolish the much-hated Universal Social Charge (USC) which brings in around €4bn a year to the State coffers.

A Department of Finance document suggested that culling the tax in one swoop would need to be off-set by a 600pc rise in property tax, a 5pc hike in income tax, an extra 18 cent per litre on the price of petrol or pushing up the price of a pint by €1.50.

Well, courtesy of Apple we could just dump the USC in an instant and not have to worry about the impact for at least three years.

2. 100,000 NEW HOMES

The Government’s Action Plan on Housing commits €5.5bn for building social housing and infrastructure between now and 2021. This, according to Minister Simon Coveney, will deliver 47,000 social houses and help to end long-term homeless.

With €13bn to spare, the housing crisis could be fixed a lot faster.

3. RUN THE HEALTH SERVICE FOR A YEAR

Coincidently €13bn is the exact figure budgeted for our troubled health system this year.

Minister Simon Harris had to fight for an extra €40m when he took office to set up a winter plan aimed at reducing overcrowding in Accident and Emergency departments.

Wouldn’t he like to double his budget and maybe have a chance of solving the never-ending crisis in our hospitals...

4. 100 HIGH-TECH SCHOOLS

A commendable €2.8bn has been set aside for the school building programme between 2016 and  2021, which will deliver 310 major extension/refurbishment projects and 14 new state of the art schools.

With €13bn the Government would be in a position to really end the use of prefabricated classrooms and deliver in excess of 100 new high-tech schools. Naturally they would be fitted out by Apple.

5. RAINY DAY FUND

This might be the least exciting option but it has served us well in the past to leave some money resting in an account.

Before it was raided to bail out the banks and kick-start government spending again, the National Pension Reserve Fund had a balance well over €13bn.

The Government has committed to setting up a new ‘rainy day fund’ so this would seem an obvious way to replenish it in one foul swoop.

6. FORGET A TEAM OF GARY BREENS

For a bit of fun we could hire a genealogist capable of finding some link between the world’s most expensive soccer player Paul Pogba and Ireland.

Pogba was recently snapped up by Manchester United for €105m – but we can afford him 123 times over.

It mightn’t have the same ring to it as a team of Garry Breens, but we might win something.

Disclaimer: If the 'windfall gains' do come our way, the money has to be used to accelerate debt reduction, according to EU budget rules that Ireland agreed to.

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