Thursday 26 April 2018

The Punt: Eurogroup job up for grabs

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Jeroen Dijsselbloem

The Netherlands is going head-to-head with Spain.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem's tenure as head of the Eurogroup comes to an end shortly and he's making a pitch to be retained in the top job.

But he's got some competition in the form of Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, who's also thrown his hat in the ring.

Now it comes down to who has the support to lead the group of Eurozone countries.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has said that Spain deserved to take on more responsibility in Europe and Mr de Guindos had the right skills to chair the Eurogroup, though he stopped short of formally backing him.

Mr Dijsselbloem will see if there is support for him to extend his mandate during visits to Berlin, Paris and Rome throughout this week.

Mr de Guindos, is regarded as the front-runner to succeed Dijsselbloem, with many arguing that the next president should come from one of the southern countries most hit by the euro zone's debt crisis.

Builder has a bright idea

Nothing surprises the Punt as much as a new idea being followed through. But fair dues to Nama and its one- time client Noel Smyth (below), this time they seem to have delivered.

The State agency, through receivers Michael McAteer and Gearóid Costello of Grant Thornton, is offering builders a chance to develop houses on a site outside Maynooth, Co Kildare without having to buy the property upfront.

Builders won't get the site for free. But the idea will allow cash strapped developers to build new homes and then pay Nama for the sites once the houses themselves are sold.

Builders will still have to cover the actual building costs, a non-refundable deposit has to be paid upfront, and the receivers need to be convinced that any developer has the wherewithal to actually follow through and produce the goods, or in this case, homes.

But, the scheme certainly reduces the barriers to getting house building going.

Indeed it is so simple it might even work. So we were surprised to see coverage this week tended to miss out on solicitor and developer Noel Smyth's role in the initiative.

He's in the news this week after winning control of the Arnotts Department Store.

But in August Smyth, who heads up Fitzwilliam Real Estate, wrote to Environment Minister Alan Kelly proposing precisely the licencing idea now being adopted by Nama.

Dalkey beckons Mr China

Book festivals are fun but rarely trouble themselves much with the business world.

This weekend's Dalkey book festival, organised by the irrepressible Irish Independent columnist David McWilliams, is different.

The economist has prevailed upon Corkman Liam Casey, aka Mr China, to speak at the Seafront Marquee on Dalkey's Coliemore Road on Sunday at 12.30.

For a mere €10, Casey promises to spill the beans on how he became one of the most successful foreign entrepreneurs in China and where he thinks China is heading.

The Punt rather wishes this newspaper had christened Casey 'Mr China' but the honour for that sobriquet goes instead to one of the Punt's favourite magazines; the US-based 'The Atlantic' and the always excellent editor James Fallows.

The 49-year-old is undoubtedly one of Ireland's most successful business leaders but he is something of an unusual choice for a book festival.

According to a recent profile in the FT, Casey has never read a book on China and does not speak Chinese.

That's led Casey to describe the last two decades as living in Guangdong without speaking Chinese as "being in a silent movie" but those handicaps are unlikely to pose much of a problem to his audience next Sunday in what is sure to be a fascinating session in one the capital's most beautiful and cheerful coastal villages.

Irish Independent

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