Monday 26 September 2016

The Yates Anthology: The rip-off Republic is well and truly back

Published 19/03/2016 | 02:30

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

While our politicians play childish games, normal service is resumed when it comes to fleecing consumers. Householders could have reasonably expected reductions in their electricity and gas bills of late.

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Global markets for crude oil, even at $40 a barrel, are down 44pc year-on-year.

Yet 1.2 million homes serviced by Electric Ireland have only seen savings of a meagre €29 over the same period.

We're blandly told to "shop around". We must alternate between Electric Ireland, Bord Gáis Energy, Energia, Flogas, Panda Power, Pinergy, Pre-Pay Power and SSE Airtricity.

We can routinely save €376 annually, we are told. What a kick in groin to faithful customers trying to show consistent allegiance.

The ESB's 2015 annual accounts revealed great news for shareholders and staff.

Operating profits are up to €635m, leading to a dividend bonanza, mainly for the Exchequer, of €273m.

After-tax net profits are up 33pc. However, discounts to 100,000 commercial consumers and households are only down 4pc.

Several thousand staff and the Government supersede punters in the queue to benefit from cheaper costs.

Energy prices in Ireland remain amongst the highest in the EU. A docile Commission for Energy Regulation remains asleep at the wheel, allowing oligopolies exploit the public.

When costs go up, they can't act speedily enough to pass on tariff increases, resembling the compliant downtown office of a former monopoly state supplier.

It is a similar story for many peoples' largest household budget expense, rent.

We have surpassed peak boom time rents in Dublin by 0.4pc. A 10pc hike in 2015 won't abate due to paucity of residential property to let, with the lowest recorded volume of 3,600 units nationwide currently on the lease market.

The Government promised to stimulate construction supply to the required 25,000 per year. But 2016 output is set to be around just 12,000. Cui bono? The biggest beneficiary is again government coffers through Nama; waiting to unload a mega residential €4.7bn loan portfolio now coming to market.

Vital medicines across pharmacy counters remain up to five times more expensive here than in Northern Ireland.

Cancer and cholesterol drugs are routinely bought in Newry for a fraction of what they cost down south.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission appears dysfunctional, ineffective and toothless.

Eddie Hobbs made a previous living out of naming and shaming rip-offs during the Celtic Tiger. Now Renua Ireland is becalmed, maybe its time for him to return to his old job.

Milk bonanza has turned sour

These are exceptionally worrying times for our 18,000 full-time dairy farmers, comprising the backbone of Irish agriculture. A year ago they were promised unfettered growth opportunities with the abolition of milk quotas on April Fools' Day.

Expanding, as advised, by 13pc, they face uneconomic returns, as the cost of production at the farm gate remains at 27 cent per litre.

Dairygold cut its February price by a further 1.5 cent to 23 cent per litre; Glanbia's base price remains at 22.7 cent.

Global dairy market benchmarking prices this week dropped by a further 3pc in New Zealand auctions. We've seen the fifth consecutive fall this year on the crucial commodity of whole milk powder.

Eurocrats have singularly failed to manage to balance the markets by raised intervention volume and value intakes of butter and skimmed milk powder.

The political decisions taken in Brussels to ban exports to Russia mean a lost market of €5bn. The much vaunted growth in Chinese consumption hasn't materialised.

Against this backdrop EU agriculture ministers met in Brussels on Monday.

Their decision to approve a French proposal to curb production should set alarm bells ringing. Paris gained approval to pay 10 cent per litre to dairy farmers not to produce, under Article 222.

This alleged voluntary and temporary measure creates a dangerous precedent. The Common Agricultural Policy was always based on "common" centralised approaches.

Ireland cannot match nationally-funded agricultural incentives and income supports affordable in richer urbanised EU states, such as Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Using individual state funds to resolve milk supply management could become a disastrous permanent compulsory feature of policy. Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan certainly wasn't wearing the green jersey when he facilitated this control curb.

Rugby rearguard result required

I'm off to the Aviva Stadium this evening for Ireland's final fixture of the Six Nations. Having attended all of the home matches, there are much lower expectations now, relative to double championship titles.

But the Scottish match is no dead rubber. It's a make or break seasonal decider.

Win and we finish a respectable top half third. Lose and we end in fifth, only ahead of Italy. Joe Schmidt knows it's a must win finale. At 4/11, we should oblige.

England are already champions, irrespective of the Paris result tonight. Still, you can expect them to win well, beating handicap spread of -7points at 10/11.

Eddie Jones is the coach of the championship, instilling a winning mentality and eradicating England's World Cup finals nightmare.

Joe Schmidt could take a leaf out of his book in the war of pre-match publicity mind games. Like Alex Ferguson, Jones targets media comments to successfully wind up opponents.

The outstanding players of the tournament for me have been Billy Vunipola, George Ford, Dan Biggar and Stewart Hogg.

Ireland's team selection and tactics were subject to unprecedented criticism by informed alickadoos on social media.

Without Sexton we're vulnerable. Our biggest success was CJ Stander, while our greatest absence was Gary Ringrose.

The South African tour later this year could be a mauling - and will only be worthwhile if we blood sufficient youngsters to transition to the first XV for the next Rugby World Cup.

Irish Independent

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