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Dan White: Year in review 2009

It's that time of the year again. We look back on the year which has just drawn to a close and forward to the New Year.

I hate to say 'I told you so' but, having checked out how my forecasts for 2009 measured up against what happened, it's been suggested I change my name to NostraDANus.

1. Inflation will fall to zero or even lower

Bang on the money. By the end of 2008 the annual inflation rate had already fallen 1.1pc. It fell even further to zero by January 2009.

After that we left inflation behind us and entered the land of deflation (falling prices) for the first time in almost 80 years.

By November, the annual rate of deflation was running at 5.7pc.

2. The government will be forced to cut the VAT rate

One of Brian Lenihan's worst decisions was increasing the VAT rate by 0.5pc in his October 2008 Budget.

As the traffic tailbacks at Newry threatened to stretch all the way back to Dublin Airport, the Finance Minister finally relented in his December 2009 Budget, reversing the October 2008 VAT rate increase and cutting excise duties on alcohol by 20pc.

3. Second 2009 budget before Easter

Almost from the very minute he sat down after delivering his first 2009 Budget on October 14, 2008, it was clear that Brian Lenihan's arithmetic didn't stack up and that he would have to bring in a second 2009 Budget.

And so it proved with Lenihan delivering a second, emergency Budget, on April 7, just five days before Easter.

4. The National Pay deal will be scrapped

Who now remembers the infamous September 2008 national pay deal, which proposed a 6pc pay increase over 21 months?

It was never implemented in most of the public sector while the reality in the private sector has been pay cuts.

5. Public sector pay and numbers will be cut

In February, public sector workers were clobbered with the imposition of a special pension levy averaging about 7pc of total earnings.

There was

worse to come with pay cuts of between 5pc and 15pc being unveiled in the December 2009 Budget. So far, there has been less progress on cutting public sector numbers although the Government did announce an early retirement scheme in the April 2009 Budget.

6. House prices will fall even lower

We were spot on here also. House prices fell by 9pc in 2008. The rate of decline accelerated in 2009 with house prices falling by a further 12.7pc in the first ten months of the year alone.

7. Ireland could be forced to leave the eurozone

Well, we're all entitled to one mistake.

8. government could be forced to close down a number of banks

At the end of 2009, all six Irish-owned banks, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, ESB, Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide were still operating. Not for much longer. Anglo is now a "zombie" bank with director Alan Dukes recently revealing that it won't be making any new l

loans until at least next July. With the Anglo franchise now irredeemably tainted the most likely outcome remains a gradual run-down of what remains of the Anglo loan book after it transfers €28bn of bad loans to NAMA.

Meanwhile, members of both the EBS and Irish Nationwide building societies have voted in favour of measures which would allow the state to take effective majority control of both institutions, a move which will facilitate a shotgun marriage of the two.

his tie-up will also probably include Permanent TSB, with shareholders of its parent company Irish Life & Permanent recently approving plans to off-load the troubled mortgage bank.

9. The government will reform the pension system

In the Budget, the Government announced major changes to public-sector pensions including moving from pensions based on final salary to pensions based on average career earnings and breaking the link between public sector pensions and current public sector earnings.

More, much more, remains to be done.

10. Unemployment will continue to rise

At the end of last year there were 293,000 people signing on. This had risen to 423,000 by the end of November.

About the only piece of good news is that virtually all of the increase took place in the first seven months of the year with the numbers on the live register having been flat since July.

Read Dan White's predictions for 2010 in tomorrow's Herald


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