It’s official. The country’s not doing very well.
29 days into the Year of the Deadasadodo, 93 days after the State had an all-night crisis meeting with the major banks, 21 days after the closure of Dell, 8 days after the forced nationalisation of Anglo Irish, and 88 days after even your humble scribe wrote his first post with the tag “we’re bocht”, the Central Bank has issued a bleak forecast for the coming year.
For most of us, our reaction to this will have been “No shit, Sherlock”. We don’t need these guys to tell us that things are going to be bad, certainly not after it has been said by absolutely everyone else in the country.
But apparently the Central Bank saying it carries more gravitas, even at this late stage, since the Irish Times carried the story as its main front page article, ahead of stories like Brian Cowen’s visit to Davros (if I heard that correctly – I think he’s trying to hire the Daleks to collect the loans due to us from Seanie Fitzpatrick). And RTE had it as the main item on its evening news, ahead even of its hilarious footage of the New Zealand prisoners’ attempted escape (which I’ll let Laughykate show you, since they’re her compatriots).
With a touching lack of cop-on the Central Bank sent two Big Guns along to the launch of its forecast where one would have done, and each of them seemed determined to outdo the other in waffle and in seeing if they could get the assembled media to say “well, duh”. Their Governor John Hurley told us that “the ability of the state to meet the public sector pay bill was beyond the scope of resources”, and “the Irish economy is in an exceptionally difficult position”. Has this man been living down a hole? Does he really think this is news?
Tom O’Connell, Assistant Director General, mooted the idea of a property tax, saying “Ireland is an outlier internationally in not applying annual charges to residential property holdings”. (I am 51 years old and have never seen the word “outlier” before – is it French, rhyming with oublier?).
He went on to state that people living in apartment complexes paid management fees of around €1,000, and said that an annual tax of €1,000 on the 1.7 million dwellings in the state would yield €1.7 billion per year. He then suggested that it’s also possible to charge for water services and many other services offered for free. He then said: “We have an awful lot of public services here that are provided free, whether it’s third-level education, free travel for the over-65s, all these things arguably could be looked at. Should people over 65 pay one-quarter of the fare, half the fare?”
There is some merit in what Mr O’Connell says – it is mathematically accurate, since 1.7 million times 1,000 is indeed 1.7 billion.
But that’s its only merit. He’s obviously never heard of the water and refuse charges already existing on residential property. It’s news to me that third level education is free. And even when Ireland was the poorest of the poor we had free travel for over-65s. If scrapping that’s the level of thinking that people in top government positions are sinking to, then we’re even worse run than I thought.
And as for his brainless property tax suggestion … is he saying that every dwelling, from Áras an Úachtaráin to the tiniest bedsit, should pay the same charge? Has he ever heard of waiver clauses for the poor in any fixed price levy? At present 38 per cent of the public don’t earn enough to pay Income Tax (thank you Dermot Ahern), so how many of these would be exempted? And how many of the unemployed (and remember the very forecast that this titwit was there to launch said we’d have 98,000 more of these by the end of this year) would be exempted? How much money would this tax really bring in? If he doesn’t know, then why doesn’t this senior executive of the body that’s responsible for our “monetary policy functions, financial stability, financial sector regulation and consumer protection” (doin’ a grand job there, boys) just stop talking crap?
As stated, Mr O’Connell is the Assistant Director General. How interesting, I thought, it might be to follow through the full range of job titles in this relatively small public organisation – if there’s an Assistant there is presumably also a Director General, and yet we’ve also met a Governor.
But their website (thank you once again, Google) tells me that there are in fact THREE Assistant Director Generals. Oh, and above them A Deputy Director General. Then the Director General. Then the Governor.
“The public sector pay bill is beyond the scope of resources”. Their words, not mine.