The Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic should be as much about timing as policy. The biggest example of getting its timing wrong was with the 9pc Vat rate for the hospitality sector announced in this week's budget.
The time to opt for a 9pc rate was in July as part of the stimulus package. Hotels and restaurants were trying to salvage a bit of a summer. Some hotels even did OK around the country with a modest staycation bounce.
But instead of acting quickly for the sector, the response at the time was a general across the board 2pc Vat reduction from 23pc to 21pc.
The thinking at the time seems to have been that a 2pc cut might be passed on to consumers, which would encourage more spending and act as a stimulus. There was a view that by slashing Vat specifically for hospitality from 13.5pc back to 9pc would not have resulted in lower prices for consumers.
Instead it would have been kept by businesses. But that is exactly what needed to happen. The penny has dropped now just as to how dire the situation is for the sector.
But the timing is far from ideal. Cutting the hospitality Vat rate when the sector is virtually closed down and the Government doesn't want lots of people dining out or staying in hotels looks ham-fisted.
When asked about it last week Tánaiste Leo Varadkar more or less gave it the old, "if we had known then what we know now" response.
There is an upside, in that the Budget does include a new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme which hospitality businesses can avail of. And committing to the 9pc rate until at least the end of 2021, gives a little more breathing space as the sector tries to re-build.
Another group that was a little disappointed by the Budget were investors calling for an improvement in the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) regime where they invest in growing Irish companies.
At the moment, investors can avail of special relief up to a lifetime maximum of €1m. It has been widely acknowledged that the €1m cut-off point was well shy of the British scheme of €10m.
But a few things have gone against the CGT lobbyists. Firstly, the British slashed their limit back down to €1m. Secondly, a case of tax avoidance highlighted by the Finance Minister in his budget speech seems to have scuppered any real hope of a reduction, at least for a while.
Varadkar made it pretty clear about the part that tax avoidance played in influencing government policy on CGT.
"We did look at increasing the €1m lifetime limit on entrepreneur relief but we were warned about tax avoidance so we dropped it," he said.
The avoidance issue referred to in the Budget speech related to Section 541 of the Tax Consolidation Act of 1997, which ensures gains arising from disposals of different foreign currencies are subject to CGT.
The Revenue found instances where the same currency was being transferred between bank accounts held by the same person, which can generate losses used to offset gains made elsewhere.
According to tax experts, these losses are paper losses rather than real financial ones, but the offsets are real. The legislation is being amended to shut the door on this loophole.
Bang goes that little loophole. But so too does the chance to improve the investment environment for growing Irish companies.
Mannok battles on several fronts
What a tough year 2019 proved to be for the former Quinn cement and building materials group. Not only had management to contend with threats, intimidation and the appalling abduction of executive Kevin Lunney, but it was a tough year on the trading front too.
Accounts just filed for Quinn Industrial Holdings, now known as Mannok Holdings, show that operating profits fell by nearly €3m to €11.9m. Pre-tax profits in the year to December 2019 fell by €3.1m to €15.88m.
The reduction in bottom line performance stemmed from a 2.7pc fall in sales. The directors' report says that was due to decreases in raw material input prices in the group's insulation business after what it called "significant" market increases in the prior year.
In the sale of cement and packaging prices, the report said there were fluctuations in volumes and selling prices. Sales in constant currency decreased by 2.8pc in 2019 compared to 2018.
Despite the slight reduction in turnover, administrative expenses increased by €2.4m to €20.7m. And the company's auditors were busy providing €127,000 in taxation advisory services and a further €666,000 in other services.
Staff costs at the group, which employs over 800 staff went up. Directors' remuneration increased by €217,000 to €1.33m.
The group is owned by a consortium of US hedge funds with local management. The business owes banks and shareholders - through loan notes - around €102m and it has been reducing debt, while also making considerable capital investment for the future.
The shareholders are receiving over €5.2m per year in interest payments on senior debt loans notes which pay out 10pc per year up to 2024.
Mannok has put in several years of very solid performances notwithstanding the challenges of threats and intimidation some executives have been subjected to.
Airport bailout conundrum
Ryanair signalled weeks ago that its bases at Shannon and Cork were for the chop unless something gave in relation to the Government's restrictive international travel policies. With no real sign of change on the horizon, the low-cost airline has had to drastically reduce its winter schedule from both airports.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the carrier continues to urge all EU governments to immediately and fully adopt the EU 'traffic light' system.
It is devastating but hardly unexpected for Cork and Shannon. Ryanair employs 80 pilots and cabin crew at its base in Cork and 55 in Shannon who'll be temporarily laid off.
The airline had been operating 16 routes in and out of Shannon and that is now falling to three - just eight flights a week.
The reliance of both airports on Ryanair cannot be overstated. Industry sources in the Mid-West have suggested the airline accounted for 80pc of all traffic out of Cork Airport in August and the figure was even higher, possibly over 90pc, for Shannon.
The Government has effectively pre-empted its likely response by throwing so much money into Budget 2021 - including a contingency fund. Whatever about Cork Airport, which is part of the DAA, Shannon has to go it alone.
A State subvention or bailout is one thing, but how long might it need to be in place?