Thursday 23 November 2017

Don't sell State assets to plug hole in finances

The real debate on the feasibility of selling off our crown jewels hasn't even begun, writes Willie O'Dea

THE Government's announcement that the sale of State assets was being contemplated has generated more heat than light. Perhaps that is unsurprising.

Colm McCarthy of An Bord Snip fame has been given the task of examining the feasibility of flogging off some of the State's commercial assets. Mr McCarthy has undertaken to complete his deliberations before Christmas. Presumably his report will provide a focus for a proper debate. Significantly, the Government's announcement stated that "the matter was being considered in view of the indebtedness of the State". This is profoundly disturbing.

In my view, simply plugging a hole in the public finances should not be the primary aim of selling State assets. It is doubtful, in fact, if it should be a consideration at all. A country selling state assets to plug a hole in its public finances is akin to somebody living beyond his means who, instead of controlling his expenditure and bringing it into line with income, decides to sell off some of his assets to continue to support an extravagant lifestyle. It is at best a temporary panacea and will almost certainly end in tears.

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