Thursday 29 September 2016

To infinity and beyond in the 'fiscal space'

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

'One doesn’t know whether asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, meteors and other flying debris exist in the Government’s universe.' Photo: Reuters
'One doesn’t know whether asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, meteors and other flying debris exist in the Government’s universe.' Photo: Reuters

Think space and you are immediately drawn into "infinity and beyond" scenarios in another dimension. One thinks of black holes and final frontiers.

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Thus when the Government blasts off to explore orbits in the outer reaches of a newly discovered "fiscal space", back here on planet earth, one gets an uneasy feeling.

This new cosmic financial headroom has been acquired thanks to the "recovery" and it has opened up horizon-less new fiscal frontiers.

It is fortuitous that this new economic zone - where the laws of economic gravity do not appear to apply so strictly - should have come on to our radar only days before the Dáil is dissolved and an election called.

Suddenly the question "sure what could possibly go wrong?" hangs over the cosmos.

According to the Department of Finance the amount of "fiscal space" available to us between 2017 and 2021 - when one factors in spending requirements on public capital projects and increases in public sector pay - is about €8.6bn.The department admits that estimates do not take account of the projected rising cost of living over the coming years.

But the Fiscal Advisory Council, charged with keeping a sharp eye on the State's bottom line, has a very different view. In fact their estimates are several light years away from the department's.

By its reckoning, there is €5bn less.

The Fiscal Advisory Council's estimate prudently factors in the cost of inflation, and pay increases in the public sector when existing wage agreements run out.

One doesn't know whether asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, meteors and other flying debris exist in the Government's universe. But one has to hope that they do not - as yet unseen hazards do not appear to have been allowed for in the bountiful heavens of "fiscal space".

It's important to talk about sexual consent

Such are the appalling rates of child and adult sexual abuse and violence in Ireland, that any initiative aimed at combating its prevalence, low reporting and poor prosecution rates deserves our full consideration.

Some have expressed alarm at the prospect of Trinity College Dublin's fresher students, living in university accommodation, participating in sexual consent workshops.

The consent workshops emulate similar programmes introduced for students in Oxford, Cambridge and leading American universities, following increased reports and awareness of sexual violence on university campuses and among student/young adult populations.

Trinity (where students requested the workshops) should be commended for challenging the scourge of sexual violence and educating its students about consent in sexual relationships.

Britain's Ministry of Defence launched a shocking poster campaign last year - 'Without consent, it's rape' - but won widespread praise for starting a conversation about consent and the law relating to sexual offences.

Indeed, age-appropriate education for all is vital to tackle sexual violence.

And given the early sexualisation of children, increased underage peer-to-peer sexual activity - as well as the country's alcohol consumption patterns - the earlier that conversation starts, the better.

Irish Independent

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