Tuesday 27 September 2016

Correct decisions are not always popular

Published 17/09/2015 | 02:30

Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Ratings agency Moody's is far from convinced that the Government's claim that its €1.5bn tax cut and spending plan for Budget 2016 is wise
Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Ratings agency Moody's is far from convinced that the Government's claim that its €1.5bn tax cut and spending plan for Budget 2016 is wise

In an overview of the crash, one of the painful lessons was that many of those making critical decisions which would rebound on all our futures seemed to fall under a spell where they appeared to find it ultimately easier to ask for forgiveness, than to seek permission.

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Thus, decisions that should only have been made after forensic consideration and analysis were made on the hoof and in the heat of the moment. This story resonated in the chorus of remorse from the Banking Inquiry. Seeking approval or accepting advice has strangely been regarded almost as a sign of weakness in high office.

In recent days, both Moodys the ratings agency and the OECD think-tank have pointed to some flashing red lights on our economic dashboard. Moody's is far from convinced that the Government's claim that its €1.5bn tax cut and spending plan for Budget 2016 is wise.

And they have a point. We still have the highest number of people in mortgage arrears in Europe and unemployment and very high levels of debt, hardly make a case for largesse. It was Oscar Wilde who said that the only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on, but he too ultimately paid a tragic price for extravagance. For its part, our own Fiscal Advisory Council feels there is scope for some give.

The council argues that although debt is a worry, the rate of growth does allow for some loosening of the belt.

Politicians ply their trade by pleasing the masses while the purveyors of the dismal science of economics make a proud living doing precisely the opposite. There will be tax cuts and the inevitable division of spoils so as to maximise the number of seats.

But into the mix must also come a sense of responsibility.

Health is crying out for funding and years of failing to service strategic public investment that may not yield immediate political dividends should also be addressed.

According to Moody's: "The Irish economy is in a very sweet spot right now. If you have a very open, volatile economy, you should have bigger buffers if you want to shield yourself. Higher buffers equals lower debt."

Some of the choices will inevitably be less popular than others, but that after all is the prerogative of government.

Urban rural divide typified by Aran farce

It is extraordinary that the Aran Islands is now within two weeks of losing its air service which has been meeting the needs of islanders for more than four decades. If ever a single issue epitomised the disconnect between central Government and rural communities then this is surely it.

The Government's plan to give the air contract to a helicopter company is now perilously close to coming apart. Incredibly, it would appear that it is not certain that Galway Airport in Carnmore will even be available to the helicopter firm. One would have imagined that an airport would have been a pretty basic requirement before awarding a contract.

But, as reported today, Galway County Council, has cast serious doubt on the airport's availability.

What is just as surprising is that according to the county council there had been "no discussions to date" regarding the use of the airport to provide the service to the Aran Islands. Islanders are vehemently opposed to the helicopter proposal. Councillors in the city council have also called for Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Joe McHugh not to sign the contract with the firm.

Such disregard for the voices of local communities makes a nonsense of government denials about an urban rural divide.

Irish Independent

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