Thursday 29 September 2016

We cannot rely upon the 'phantom billions'

Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30

On Budget Day, in that folksy way of his, Finance Minister Michael Noonan described his tax cuts as equating to an extra week’s pay for many workers. Well, he may be less keen on describing today’s Exchequer returns as being an extra month’s revenue for Government
On Budget Day, in that folksy way of his, Finance Minister Michael Noonan described his tax cuts as equating to an extra week’s pay for many workers. Well, he may be less keen on describing today’s Exchequer returns as being an extra month’s revenue for Government

It should be, and very probably is, good news, especially as we approach Christmas. The Government will today announce tax receipts vastly better than predicted last year. In fact, they are right back to a level of income last seen in 2007, the final year of the boom.

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On Budget Day, in that folksy way of his, Finance Minister Michael Noonan described his tax cuts as equating to an extra week's pay for many workers. Well, he may be less keen on describing today's Exchequer returns as being an extra month's revenue for Government.

The reality is that the Government is likely to say it has taken in roughly €42bn to the end of November - equivalent to the sum it predicted for the entire 12 months of 2015. Hence the de facto extra month.

There are two "firsts" to be recorded here, which, of themselves, should counsel serious caution. It is the first time since 2007 we have had such tax revenue. It is also the first time in the State's history that the economic cycle coincided with the political cycle for a government led by Fine Gael.

Both of these pointers scream the clear danger of making the same mistakes as the last government and leading us back to economic perdition. Back in the years 2004-2006, the Finance Department seriously underestimated tax revenues; and it did the exact opposite in the years 2007-2008, when recession delivered its vicious kicks.

The largesse in the last boom was based on the transient revenues from a bloated building sector. This time it is based on company tax receipts, which may, or may not, be more durable than construction revenues. The real fear is we may again be depending on so-called "phantom billions."

Between now and polling day, all citizens must look with scepticism at where we are heading economically. Errors will prove very costly, with the price being paid in just a few years.

Set aside an hour to invest in your children's future

The world is changing fast. The internet generation has an entirely different skillset to those who passed through the education system only a decade before. The role and importance of technology in our lives is growing and will inevitably continue to be a dominant force.

Every parent owes it to their children to ensure they are sufficiently equipped to deal with the challenges they will face in daily life and when they join the workforce.

The Hour of Code is a basic introduction to computer science, designed as a taster for the world of coding.

The opportunity to engage in the exercise is free, and it's easy to participate in.

The message to parents in clear: set aside just one hour this coming week to plug in to the future.

Ireland has had an advantage in the jobs market by being part of the Anglophone world.

Coding is a truly universal language, transcending all nationalities, and part and parcel of the digital age.

However, this country risks being left out of this global dialogue.

To keep pace with education systems elsewhere, we need to have coding on the Leaving Cert curriculum.

In Britain, coding will soon be introduced as a mandatory subject across all state schools.

Ireland must not be left behind because of a blatant lack of vision within our education system.

The Hour of Code is just a starter.

Irish Independent

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