Ireland rich in irony if not in actual funds
There is something portentous about the fact that the IMF and ratings agency Fitch, should be eyeing us up on the same day that the Government's Summer Economic Statement was released.
Fitch has been sounding off on how high levels of national debt are the top threat to the global economy. It is especially unnerved by the fact that globally, governments are slower to commit to austerity. Its concern is timely, as Ireland's national debt has just surpassed €200bn for the first time in 2017. This is the context in which Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced that we will increase capital spending by €500m each year from 2019 to 2021. It has to be remembered that all this is contingent on the books being balanced by 2018. So what could possibly go wrong? Well there's Brexit for one, and the unpredictability of Donald Trump's impact on the economy, for another.
Mr Donohoe has done some horse trading with Fianna Fáil to break into the planned 'rainy day' fund to finance spending which is badly needed. Evidence of under-investment, in health, housing and education is pervasive. The alacrity with which the Soldiers of Destiny pulled in their horns on breaking into the putative piggy bank here is a little surprising. In war, strategists suggest one should never interrupt one's enemy when they are making a mistake. There are two major caveats for the blueprint: It is vital that spending on hospitals, schools, roads, and transport comes in; firstly on budget, and secondly on time.