Sunday 11 December 2016

Regulation is pivotal to sale of state assets

Published 21/04/2011 | 05:00

ANYBODY wishing for a to-do list from Colm McCarthy was probably disappointed yesterday. The laconic UCD academic's report is long on detail but short on concrete recommendations beyond general warnings about selling assets too cheaply, too quickly or too slowly.

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Frustratingly, the report makes no attempt to value the State's assets beyond reporting their book values -- a fairly meaningless metric -- which makes it difficult for the public or ministers to judge what is worth selling. Nobody would sell their house or car without enquiring first about the value and nor should the Government.

The value of the country's assets is now so small relative to its liabilities that it will be tempting for the coalition partners to paper over their differences by ignoring the divisive issue almost entirely. Privatisations are tricky; those on the right and the left can object to the sale of strategic assets such as the ports and the railways for different reasons. Industrial action is almost a given.

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