Wednesday 21 February 2018

The Punt: Dame St past and present

The Central Bank headquarters in Dublin
The Central Bank headquarters in Dublin

Central Bank chiefs appear to have been squared away ahead of Budget 2017, even rowing in behind the so-called Help to Buy Scheme that is already being blamed for driving up house prices.

The scheme neatly side steps the Central Bank's own lending rules by handing lump sums to qualifying home buyers, but came complete with a blessing wrestled out of Philip Lane.

One former regulator is unconvinced by this year's Budget though. Stefan Gerlach, who stepped down as Central Bank deputy governor early this year to join BSI Bank in Zurich, was on Twitter during the week. He congratulated Dan O'Brien for an Irish Independent column which described the budget as "overly rosy and under risk-proofed".

"An excellent analysis that raises good questions. How is it possible that the budget is still in deficit? Populist economic policies...", Gerlach mused.

Unilever storm in a tea cup

Tesco, along with Musgrave's SuperValu and Centra brands, may prove eventual winners from this week's Unilver showdown.

It looks like the big grocery chains went out to bat for the plain people of Ireland against price hiking corporate mega-giant Unilever. If you spent the week under a rock, the supermarkets spent it publicly resisting price hikes by the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate that produces a staggering 800 popular brands and products.

In Britain, where the row first kicked off, Marmite was also a big winner.

Fears there, that the inexplicably popular spread could disappear from shelves sparked a mass outpouring of angst - and reminded everyone how popular the potted yeast by-product remains.

Here, Unilever's best known brand is Lyons Tea. But fears it could disappear from shelves quickly gave way, in many cases, to consternation that the quintessentially Irish cuppa is made by a foreign corporate giant.

Not just that, but it's even bagged in Blighty. When the dust settles, Musgraves might not be the only Cork firm getting a bounce from Unilever price fever.

Irish Independent

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