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German lessons

Achtung! Enda, for you ze var is over. Repeat. It's going to be harder to understand our new owners, as sales of German and other language-learning CDs, dictionaries and online courses have fallen 28 per cent on eBay.ie over the last year. As Ireland prepares to become a slave state to France and Germany and the bigger European countries, we're showing just how flexible a nation we've become by trying to master our new language. If we keep showing how good we are since der bailout, our new masters might give us a pat on der head. Dummkopf!

Corporate gift giving

Having been all but extinct in recent years, corporate gifts are making an ever-so-slight bit of a comeback. The average order for corporate gifts placed by businesses with Lulu Sullivan's Giftsdirect.com has risen more than 10 per cent to €655 this year. Sales figures also show an increased volume of gifts being sent abroad by companies, indicating more international and export contacts. Hampers are the top sellers.

Coffee sales

It's the ultimate barometer for small discretionary spending. Buying a takeaway latte or cappuccino is one of the first things cut when outgoings are completely shredded. Latest figures from Insomnia show sales rising up 10 per cent compared with the same week last year.

Foreign tourist visits

The number of tourists visiting from Europe -- excluding the UK -- rose by 2.4 per cent from August to October. Could they all be coming to get first dibs on the Ardagh Chalice or the Book of Kells before it goes into a vault somewhere in one of the bigger European countries... for safe-keeping of course? However, the numbers coming to visit from the key UK market is down by 2.7 per cent, with high spending US tourists falling 1.7 per cent. But growth in the continental European market is a positive.

Four-bed properties for sale on Daft.ie

The volume of properties for sale advertised by Daft.ie has fallen steadily over recent weeks. This may indicate that the massive oversupply of homes on the market is reducing, which is a huge plus. Since the start of September last, more than 1,000 four-bed homes have been taken off the market. There are still about a billion for sale, but at least it's going in the right direction. Moves in the Budget may help stimulate the market further. But has it reached the bottom?

VAT increase

When Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin translated the Budget from its original Franco-German text, they would have been a bit surprised at yet another move to strangle the domestic economy. Hiking VAT is a tax on consumption, which means that retailers and shoppers are going to get it in the neck. It will lower the amounts of goods and services people will buy, further depressing the economy. The VAT raise is forecast to bring in €670m. Perhaps selling off the whole of the ESB rather than a tiny chunk might help take the pressure off us. Ooops ... completely forgot. That would annoy the public sector unions. We can't have that.


Given that we don't have a Plan B to rescue the country (other than selling more stuff abroad), the Budget moves to boost exports to emerging markets were a step in the right direction. Increasing tax reliefs for exporting firms will encourage Irish entrepreneurs to try to build new markets, rather than relying on the strangled European and US sectors. A Minister for Asia wouldn't be a bad idea... though pay for ministerial special advisers would probably take the mickey.

Sunday Indo Business