Thursday 10 February 2011

Election Commentary

Most of the Election Manifesto material from the various parties and the content of the debates has been depressingly thin on policies that have any chance of actually making a material difference to me or the country at large.

There are a few things being discussed that I like the sound of though:

  • FG’s proposal to change the Leaving certificate so Irish is no longer compulsory.
  • FG’s plan to overhaul broadband. I don’t believe the claims about direct employment there because broadband infrastructure deployment is capital not labour intensive so it will cost money we don’t have without meeting it’s main objective but in theory we’ll have great broadband options by 2014 even if it’ll be way too expensive for us paupers to afford.
  • FF\FG\Labour plans to overhaul the structure of the Dail\Senate. Not sure which plan I prefer and I don’t think there is any merit in doing this for reasons of saving money but any plan that tries to fix a system that is clearly broken is worth a shot.
  • FG (again) – An end to totally daft crap like the various construction tax write offs and upward only rent reviews. Both practices are obscene.
  • Labour – Burn some Bondholders.

Other than that I’ve yet to see anything that is really convincing. The fact that I like the flavour of more FG plans than others shouldn’t be taken as an indication that I’ve converted to the dark side although it does worry me that old age is slowly turning me into a blue shirt.

Adventurous policies I’d like to see but pigs will fly first unfortunately…

  • Dropping Irish as an official language. I’d go a lot a lot further than FG minor tweak – drop the pretence that there is any value in maintaining parity of access for Irish in all aspects of public life. It’s a joke, provides no benefit to the economy at large or the welfare of the overwhelming majority of the population. The economic cost of keeping it alive is enormous – given that teaching it consumes around a sixth to an eighth of all teaching resources at primary and post primary level. In effect that costs us around €1-2 billion a year keeping it alive, for no material benefit and frankly with pathetic results for all that cost. Overall the cost of maintaining Irish – covering the aforementioned education cost plus the duplication of all legislative procedures, legal documents and the various Gaeltacht subsidies pushes that number up well past €2 Billion per annum and it could be over €3 billion. If you are in favour of keeping Irish going then by all means pay for it yourself but I am not impressed with having over 10% of the taxes I pay going into maintaining it.
  • Go really aggressively green – build some nuclear power stations – Thorium by choice. Loadsa jobs, potential for some serious R&D upside, followed by serious export potential for the expertise gained, cheap power for decades, seriously cutting down on imported energy, hit our CO2 targets, Blah, Blah, Blah. Get in bed with the Chinese to fund it, they’ll love us for it and that would really give the Eurocrats something to chew down on. Your grandchildren will love you for it, and for a bonus you can have a healthy business selling medically useful isotopes and PU-238 to NASA so they can keep on exploring. Heck build a bunch and sell the power back to the rest of Europe - if we dropped Irish we could build 2-3 Giga-watt capable power stations per year, that’s about 50% of our current total capacity effectively for free. Which would you prefer keeping Irish on life support for €2bn per annum or free power for you and your children for the next 50 years? Net effect on the economy – by the time the first few come online [say 3 years, it’s worth being aggressive here] we’ll be saving a couple of billion per annum, making about €500 million profit on by products and we’ll have astonishingly cost competitive energy options for heavy industry.
  • Go back to the Catholic Church and get them to pay 100% of the costs of all of their past mistakes. Pass some laws to prevent them asking their parishioners for the cash – make sure it comes from the Vatican. We need the cash now folks, thanks, sorry ain’t good enough any more. I’d be looking for a couple of billion Euro there.
  • Revisit the pricing of our natural resources – I’ve no problem with Shell’s operation in Mayo or any of the rest but it’s absolutely insane that we do not impose a per unit levy\tax on the resources they extract. If it takes a complete revolution to do that alone it would be worth it. The Corrib gas field is estimated to contain 110 billion cubic meters of gas, at about 10kWhours/cubic meter that has a retail value of at least €30billion. I don’t see any reason why we can’t demand a good chunk of that up front – a levy similar to the corporate tax rate of 12.5% would yield a couple of hundred million a year for a very long time. And Shell ain’t short of the cash – they cleared $20bn last year.
  • An immediate end to closed shop pricing for professional services. This needs to apply to things like Medical Consultants, Lawyers and anyone else.who’s carved out a legally protected niche that allows them to command obscene fees. There’s easily a good chunk of a billion to be saved there in Government expenditures alone.
  • And someone needs to go through the HSE with an axe, a shotgun and a chainsaw and a BFG-9000. Easily cut out €2 billion worth of middle management. Put half of that back in to Nurses and keeping more hospitals\beds\emergency rooms open.

For starters.

There’s a good clear €4-5 billion in annual savings in there with the bonuses of loads major high tech heavy engineering jobs, increased competitiveness and better quality of life all round.

The reason we’re screwed is we’d never allow anyone to run the country who could even begin to contemplate things like that.

1 comment:

Pat C said...

Heres my 2 cents: What to do with all the idle surplus housing: Eliminate all housing waiting lists: ( eg http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/kfmhidojgbsn/rss2/)

Plan: Council buys properties super cheap from NAMA etc ( well we are already paying for them, but never mind)... Houses/apartments become occupied, services get paid for, taxpayers stop paying on the double, eyesore empty buildings disappear. Caveat being: make the tenants part owners ( even 5% of their dole)