Monday 11 December 2017

Reform plan is lacking in real changes

The Government has presented us with a hatchet job when what we need is microsurgery, writes Marc Coleman

A disconnect from economic reality, unnecessary damage to the domestic economy, no substantive reform and -- its one redeeming feature -- a cut in the number of quangos. In my opinion, these are the main conclusions that any serious analysis of Thursday's reform proposals would have drawn.

Fortunately for Government, real analysis was distracted by yet another media circus on an irrelevancy. From a Government's point of view, Thursday's Berlin Budget leak couldn't have been better timed, deflecting as it did commentator attention from the real news that 23,000 jobs had been sacrificed on the altar of the Croke Park deal. And this so that the most uncompetitive public pay in the Eurozone can be maintained. On the same day news broke of a €114,000 pension awarded to a retiring Government Department secretary (at just 53) and of Mary Harney's €133,000 pension. But no one made the connection between huge pay and pensions and the jobs being cut to fund them.

As for the imminent VAT hike, that was already old news: flagged a year ago in the Memorandum of Understanding. Admitting that a hike of just 0.5 per cent -- which he had the sense to reverse -- had cost our economy €700m in lost trade, Brian Lenihan had already accepted the stupidity of the idea. Since that admission the Croke Park deal has put self-destructive tax hikes back on the agenda and now a VAT hike four times as great as the last failed one is being contemplated. And this at a time of retail recession.

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