Monday 24 October 2016

We need to talk about Michael...

Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30

Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Fennell Photography
Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Fennell Photography

'Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.' - Stephen Covey, American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker (1932-2012).

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The cack-handed management of the response to the EU's €13bn tax ruling on Apple shows first things were not put first by Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

First things first would have been finding out what the ruling said and the magnitude of the fine.

First things first would have been to prepare for a negative outcome and anticipate the fallout.

First things first would have been to ensure the Government was unified in its response to the ruling.

First things first would have been to deliver a coherent retaliation to the European Commission's broadside.

First things first would have been to identify our allies in a tax harmonisation battle against Brussels.

Instead, Noonan blundered into reaction. By the time he arrived late on the pitch, the game was over. European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager delivered a stunning rebuke to our tax regime that dominated the agenda.

Noonan is an analogue politician in a digital era. His folksy analogies about "seed potatoes" might work at a Fine Gael branch meeting, but not when dealing with a major international development when Ireland is centre stage.

A day later and Noonan's lack of preparation is exposed further as the Government has backed off its pledge to appeal the Apple ruling. Independent ministers want time - to see which way the wind is blowing.

Questions now arise about the veteran Noonan's energy to carry out the role. He will undoubtedly be moved on from ministerial office when Taoiseach Enda Kenny departs. Ireland's economy can't afford to wait.

Common sense required on mortgage restrictions

The Central Bank rules to restrict mortgage lending announced last year were intended to give a degree of much-needed certainty and clarity where there was confusion for those hoping to either get on, or climb up, the property ladder. They were not devised to exclude a generation from owning their own home - yet, as our reports show today, that is precisely what is happening.

According to new research, seven out of 10 new buyers say they are being clobbered by the financial curbs. The burden of raising a deposit while also having to rent a home is beyond the reach of most of those hoping to own a property.

It is not unusual for it to take up to six years to scrape a deposit together, it has proven beyond the capacity of too many workers on middle incomes. One of the repeated criticisms of the new limits was that they favoured the wealthy. This survey seems to back this up, as four out of 10 are using funds from their family to pull a deposit together.

The compilers of the data also point to what they describe as the high "social cost" of the restrictions, claiming that it drives many to "move away from family networks and to areas of lower amenity or infrastructural inappropriateness (poorer transport, childcare facilities, schools, roads and further from work)". The Governor of the Central Bank, Philip Lane, has been resolute defending the rules. Yes, they may have put a brake on imprudent lending, but a few sensible amendments could be the difference between a family getting a starter home or not.

A small degree of flexibility could make a big difference.

Irish Independent

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