Monday 11 December 2017

The Punt: Ministers enjoying lazy days of summer - Parlon

Tom Parlon.
Tom Parlon.
Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister

Head of the Construction Industry Federation Tom Parlon is cock-a-hoop following a new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The think-tank says we need to build 90,000 houses over the next seven years, mainly on the east coast. There will be a chronic housing shortage unless builders in hard hats and hi-vis jackets get busy in Dublin and surrounding commuter counties, the ESRI concluded.

The findings from Dr Edgar Morgenroth of the ESRI were music to the ears of Mr Parlon and the members of the body he heads, which lobbies on behalf of builders and developers.

His members are chomping at the bit to build, but only if they get certain concessions, such as lower valued added tax (VAT). They are also seeking lower levies to be imposed by local authorities and suspension of the rules requiring social housing to be built as part of a development.

Mr Parlon is anxious to get all of this across to the new ministers following last month's Cabinet reshuffle.

But he revealed on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' that he has been unable to set up meetings with most ministers.

It seems that the August period represents the lazy days of summer, even for our newly-promoted ministers.

Housing crisis, what housing crisis, seems to be the position in Government.

Investing in the ISEQ's women is no easy punt

The Punt was intrigued by an article in the 'Wall Street Journal' earlier week about investment funds that specialise in investing in companies which have appointed women as chief executives or have boards where more than 30pc are female.

This naturally set The Punt to considering what would happen if the experiment was tried here. As most readers will know, only two Irish companies are led by women: recruiter CPL led by Anne Heraty and dairy giant Glanbia led by Siohain Talbot.

The duo have enjoyed contrasting fortunes in recent years. Glanbia's shares are up 1.95pc so far this year while CPL's shares are down 7.6pc. The benchmark ISEQ Overall Index is down 0.2pc in the same period. Over a ten-year span, the divergence is even starker. Glanbia's shares have risen six-fold while CPL and the ISEQ have seen their value halve. What does The Punt deduce from all this? Very little is the answer.

Most of Glanbia's gains came when the company was led by a man and there was no reason to suspect that it would one day become the first company to smash the glass ceiling by appointing a woman. CPL did not really appoint Anne Heraty; she had to set up the company herself, while her period as a director at Anglo Irish did not coincide the bank's glory days. Perhaps it is just too early to apply the rules here?

Can Matteo's youthful vigour save Italy?

Poor Matteo. What a job he now faces.

The youthful and charismatic Italian prime minister had a meteoric rise to power earlier this year as he ascended from mayor of Florence to premier at break-neck speed. But his party's emphatic European Parliament win gave that rise to power an air of legitimacy.

He took on an already immense task to reform the euro zone's third largest economy and his dynamism and charm bought him time with voters and the markets.

But now the country has slipped back into recession, underlining the chronic weakness of the Italian economy and pressuring the government to complete promised reforms. Renzi has announced ambitious labour and tax plans to revive growth and sweeping overhauls of the justice system, the bloated public administration and Italy's system of government.

But the big question has always been can he do it?

Beyond an €80-per-month tax break for millions of low-income workers, he has yet to translate his promises into action, and his energies have been taken up for weeks by a draining parliamentary battle over constitutional reform. The pressures are intensifying.

He'll need all the youthful vigour he can muster to take on the challenges faced at home, and the risks posed by those challenges to a fragile European recovery.

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