Thursday 30 March 2017

Throwing toys out of the pram won't help, Eamon

When Aer Lingus was made private it was a better deal for everyone, who's to say it won't be the same for other assets, writes Eamon Delaney

It's the mid-summer silly season, with little else happening except politicians playing golf or making mischief at summer schools, but Greens' Communications Minister Eamon Ryan has thrown a right spanner into the works -- or should that be left spanner -- telling us last week that he, and presumably his party, are firmly opposed to the proposed privatisation of state assets that are "delivering", such as ESB, Bord Gais and An Post.

This is despite the fact that the government's review group, chaired by economist Colm McCarthy, is looking at all major state companies as the Government attempts to cut the €84bn national debt. These include not only ESB, Bord Gais, and An Post, but RTE, Irish Rail, and Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports, along with 10 port companies but Bord na Mona. The initial focus was to be commercial state companies, but Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan also wants the group to look at other assets, such as the radio spectrum, used to carry mobile phone and TV signals, and mining and exploration licences.

However, Mr Ryan wants to put the kibosh on this, or some of this. But his stance begs the question: why should private investors buy only those assets that are not delivering? Surely those which are performing best are the ones which should be top of the list for privatisation. After all, the whole point of the disposal of these assets is to generate much needed money for the State. Why would you only sell the weak ones, rather than looking at the top price for the best ones too?

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