Monday 23 April 2018

The Punt - Youthful Simon Harris faces tough job

Fine Gael's Simon Harris, the new junior finance minister
Fine Gael's Simon Harris, the new junior finance minister

AGEISM is an awful thing. But The Punt feels it necessary to point out that our new junior finance minister was born in the same year that top class 80s film 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' hit the big screen.

The youthful Wicklow TD takes over the post from Brian Hayes who's gone packing off to Europe.

It's a big boost for Harris who's also the youngest deputy in the Dail.

The question is whether it is the correct move by the Taoiseach?

Why not? Harris comes across as intelligent, articulate and an impressive performer on the Dail's influential Public Accounts Committee.

Isn't that all that matters? His area of responsibility is also an interesting one that includes international banking and the IFSC.

The Federation of International Banks in Ireland has long pushed for a minister to cover the financial services hub and help further its success.

But his job won't be an easy one and will be likely fraught with potential difficulties.

AIB deputy chairman Michael Somers claimed last year banks were pulling out of the IFSC because of heavy regulation.

This issue and others will mean a heavy workload for the young minister.

'Poster Child' gets antsy

Since getting its financial house (more or less) in order, Ireland has been touted by EC bureaucrats, IMF officials and leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel as evidence that austerity works.

But having been the good student at the top of the class, Ireland’s reputation for diligence is now being eroded among the international community.

Now we’re in danger of becoming the enfant terrible.

IMF officials have been nagging the Government to stick to a Budget target of €2bn worth of tax hikes and spending cuts in order to keep the recovery, and the budget deficit, on track. But mandarins at Leinster House have one eye on elections in two years’ time.

That means tax cuts are on the agenda and that rankles the IMF.

News agency Bloomberg yesterday highlighted the political dilemma to a global audience, with the headline: ‘Irish Poster Child Turns Rebel Defying IMF Cuts’. 

It quotes Fiona Hayes, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, which is a primary dealer in Irish Government bonds . “An end to austerity is in sight,” she said, expecting that Budget measures will be about half of what was planned, or €1bn.

“Needs to maintain focus,” the school report might read.

Women bid to go stateside

Up to 100 delegates will attend a US and Irish female entrepreneurs networking evening in Cork later this month to celebrate the role entrepreneurship plays in society. And they'll also enjoy an artisan  picnic with some of the rebel county's finest foods.

Organised by Cork Foundation, leading businesswomen will pitch their products and ideas to eight US entrepreneurs - with one eventually chosen to travel to New York in December to meet with industry leaders in their field.

"Traditionally entrepreneurship has been male led but it's encouraging to see an increasing number of women taking the leap and starting their own business," Anne O'Leary, Vodafone Ireland chief and Cork Foundation member, said.

"It's events like this that are invaluable for networking and learning from peers in order for entrepreneurs to develop significant growth aspirations for their business."

US entrepreneurs Linda Wellbrock and Tara Gilva will be among the special guests.

Irish Independent

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