TH€ PUNT: A new tax to blow your lid over
HERE is an idea. People have stopped going to pubs, and are buying alcohol in off-licences that are cheaper and have a greater range of beers, spirits and wines; and are drinking at home where it is unlikely someone will be shoving you out of the way to get to the bar.
In response to this change, the hospitality business is calling for a 15pc tax on alcohol sold in off-licences, pushing prices up and thus suppressing spending even more than it already has been in the downturn.
If it sounds absurd, that's because it is. Yet this is what the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) are advocating through their ridiculous "lid levy".
The pub and hospitality industry is in trouble, no doubt about that, and by most estimates the market is down more than a fifth since 2007.
Instead of examining its own industry, however – for example, is €5.50 for a pint, as some Dublin pubs charge, really sustainable amid 15pc unemployment? – the industry wants us to subsidise them.
The VFI and LVA have done a lot of good things for their industry, but the lid levy is not one of them. Every year there are a lot of bizarre kites flown before the Budget, but this smacks of price gouging. It should be treated as such, and ignored.
Reaching for pie in the sky
If 3,000 jobs centred around Shannon Airport can be created over the next five years, there will be plenty of happy faces in the region.
There's nothing wrong with aiming high, but the level of job growth is hugely ambitious.
A report into Shannon Airport's future, prepared by two task forces and a steering committee comprising 35 people – including former and serving civil servants – reckons the area can become an international aviation services centre.
That's a big challenge. Some would argue that Shannon's heyday is past.
Passenger numbers have plummeted and it's difficult to make a case for the airport ever being able to be more than a has-been on the west coast of a very small nation.
Short-haul and some long-haul services may continue for years to come, but hoping to be a transatlantic hub for commercial aircraft could be pie in the sky.
Developing as a global aviation services centre is a laudable vision. Achieving the goal will not be straightforward, but it may not be impossible.
A private sector mentality will have to prevail if Shannon Airport is to have any hope of revitalising itself. Even then, the long-term future still looks turbulent.
Spinning PR gold for NAMA
IRISH businesses have been screaming blue murder over the Government's new website for tenders which has made it almost impossible to work out how to tender for anything these days.
It seems that one man who won't be worrying too much is former Progressive Democrat spin doctor Ray Gordon (pictured), who was widely rumoured yesterday evening to have kept the contract for the National Asset Management Agency's public relations needs after the €150,000-a-year gig was put up for tender earlier this year.
While Mr Gordon refused to comment, other PR agencies around town have been told that he won the three-year contract to spin for NAMA and the National Pensions Reserve Fund.
The 21-page tender document (which used the old easy-to-understand tendering system) said back in September that the cost of the PR service was less important that the quality of the applicants. It estimated that about 80 hours of service would be required each month – a figure that seems very low to the Punt.
While NAMA has its fair share of critics in the political, academic and media worlds, Mr Gordon has managed to win grudging respect from one unlikely source – the Nama Wine Lake blog which follows all things NAMA-related.
Back in September, the blog said that, when the tender was released, "you would have to say over the past two years, NAMA's release of information has, overall, been democratic and transparent" – a period that has coincided with Mr Gordon's first appointment to NAMA.