Thursday 27 October 2016

Finance is a gun, politics is knowing when to pull the trigger

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

Appealing decision: Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Bloomberg
Appealing decision: Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Bloomberg

'The Godfather Part III' is not a great film, but it is a decent homage to Luchino Visconti's 'The Leopard'. It completes the story of Michael Corleone's life and it contains a pithy piece of political and economic wisdom.

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This emerges as Vincent tricks Don Altobello into believing that Michael may be betrayed. Altobello introduces Vincent to the shadowy Don Lucchesi and this meeting of old businessman and young street hood gives us the gem.

Vincent self-deprecatingly notes his lack of knowledge of big deals and finance, but Lucchesi reassures him, saying "you know guns", and "finance is a gun, politics is knowing when to pull the trigger".

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager shot the country point-blank last week using a €13bn bullet, and even though Michael Noonan returned fire on Bloomberg immediately, something strange occurred.

The Independent Alliance wing of the Cabinet, knowing not guns, not finance nor politics, obliged the Finance Minister by coming into the Dáil this week to discuss tax justice, really.

So, this week there will be only one legislative body on the planet discussing international tax justice and the Dáil will conduct this debate in the middle of a tax shootout; watch as the Independents cower and leave the shooting to the big boys and girls of politics and finance.

Now is not the time for the Independent Alliance's navel-gazing, conscience-wringing grandstanding.

We cannot afford their dubious leadership.

Their inability to stand up for our State's economic interests can only be classed as wojus.

Tom Hayes
North Circular Road, Limerick

Middle-class mugs pay again

The news this week was full of the tax judgment against Apple and Ireland, and our cobbled-together excuse for a Government was finally able to come to grips with the fact that an appeal is the correct course of action.

International tax laws allow companies to set up amazingly creative tax avoidance schemes, and we've proven to be able to provide some key pieces of machinery to this industry.

Saturday's Irish Independent covered the Apple story, as well as the launch of the annual budgetary circus, whereby various interests try, through the court of public opinion, to explain to the Government the virtues of why they should get more money and/or pay less tax. It is clear that our corporate tax rate of 12.5pc will remain sacrosanct.

Charlie Weston's piece on middle-class mugs also highlights the fact that "20pc of earners pay three-quarters of all the tax", as well as the fact that our childcare costs absorb a higher percentage of income than the OECD average.

But here's the thing: if we want Government to provide quality services, such as health care, low-cost education and a modern infrastructure, we need to pay for this through taxation. It is hard to extract much tax from the poor, the wealthy have the money to leave the country if you tax them too much, and we're committed to a 12.5pc corporate tax rate.

Who's left? We middle-class mugs. Until we're able to find a magic pot of easy perpetual money or radically restructure our system of taxation, we're going to be left with the Government-provided things the middle-class mugs can afford. Which, as we can all plainly see, isn't much.

Phil Miesle
Ennis, Co Clare

Towards a better foreign policy

I fully support the Taoiseach's claim that Ireland is being bullied by the EU Commission; however, it irritates me that this lamentable Apple tragicomedy unfolding before our eyes could have been easily avoided had Ireland supported the post-Brexit petition to dismiss the EU Commission, submitted at the European Conservatives and Reformists forum by Polish MEP Marek Jurek.

Jurek, a former Marshal of the Polish parliament, is a Hibernophile, who said in an interview he gave for a bimonthly Kraków magazine 'Arcana' in the mid '90s that he envisages the ideal social order for Poland being akin to the one in Ireland.

Jurek wasn't the only one - Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in June that Poland was working on a new EU treaty that would allow members' national parliaments to repatriate powers from Brussels.

This was followed by the Dubrovnik Forum, where 12 central and eastern European countries (Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - with China and the US representatives present) met in August to form an alliance based on common security and their opposition to the 'Carolingian' (Germany and France dominated) vision of Europe (incidentally, all these countries are against tax harmonisation) - an event virtually unnoticed in Ireland.

When will Ireland shake off its post-colonial mentality of having a reactive rather than proactive foreign policy?

Grzegorz Kolodziej
Bray, Co Wicklow

Lessons from Scandinavia

I read with interest Gerard O'Regan's article in Saturday's Irish Independent about taking 'easy money' from the ruling of the current Apple controversy. But he fails to see that is exactly what the Irish have been doing over decades with our lazy approach to building a proper economy.

We let the foreign investors in, they take what they can get and leave us with nothing. We are not the envy of everyone in Europe. Take, for example, Denmark - with a population the size of Ireland and smaller geographically. Do they depend on foreign investors? No way. They look after themselves. They make iPads and iPhones, wind turbines, hearing aids and furniture to die for. And the world lines up to buy their bacon. Look them up, Mr O'Regan. Their small and medium businesses export €40bn worth of goods every year, but our SMEs export €4bn.

The eco-system that flows out of these business every year is the envy of the world, not the crumbs that fall from the foreign investors' tables. I'm only an ordinary punter that reads about other countries and what they have done to improve their economies over the decades.

Why doesn't the media look closer into how we could build up our own economy and make it vibrant, like that of the Danes and the Finns. It's also very ironic that the woman who was berating Apple was from Denmark, Margrethe Vestager.

For our children's and grandchildren's sake, please, Mr Kenny, do not let another crash happen. Three have already happened in the history of this State. Start building a proper economy and stop being lazy and then we can tell these foreign investors where to go.

Bobby Lang
Malahide, Dublin

Irish Independent

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