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Budget speculation kicks off new political season

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Another one on the way...Minister for Finance Michael Noonan poses with his Budget on the steps of Government Buildings.

Autumn: a season of mists and Michael Noonan. Because, between now and the middle of October, we’ll see almost as much of that slightly world weary expression and familiar pate than as Donegal defenders circling the defensive D in Croke Park.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

This is the week where the Budget season kicked off in earnest. The party think-ins are out of the way.  The Dáil is back. The bilaterals – involving Noonan and Brendan Howlin on the one side, and line Ministers on the other – have begun. The CSO figures showing the level of growth in the second quarter (a sure fire indicator of the wiggle room that will be available for the Budget) have been published.

The last piece of the jigsaw will come early next month when the Exchequer returns for September are published.

If they go with trend, it will allow Noonan and Howlin to draft their respective parts of the Budget. Howlin tells Departments how much they are allowed to spend next year – they have to make adjustments accordingly; Noonan decides changes in State revenue generation including taxes, duties and he also decides the extent of the deficit the Government will run in 2015.

The figures for this year have been good. Growth wasn’t particularly strong at the start of the year but seems to have accelerated.

It is certain too that confidence amongst citizens – which is hard to measure – is returning, and they are beginning to be emboldened to make those big financial decisions they recoiled from during the hard years.

That can be seen on the housing side. Is it a bubble? They say it’s not. But prices are exploding and demand clearly exceeds supply – in certain areas of Dublin in particular. They are still a good deal below the peak but the peak was too high and there is a question – will the subsidiary peak that will be reached this time be also too high for Ireland?

That’s a developing story but already it seems that no human hand will be big and powerful enough to stop it when it begins to develop momentum and gallop towards another Nemesis.

In any instance, that’s in the future. For now, let’s deal with what we know about the October budget.  It’s clear that the Government will definitely not go for a €2 billion adjustment in the Budget. We know that the target set out in the Stability Programme is for the General Government Deficit to be reduced to 2.9% by the end of 2015.

With the economy performing better, the thinking in the Government at the moment is that it the percentage can be reached without having to take out all that money. Some figures in Government believe it can be reached with a neutral budget – where cuts and revenues will effectively cancel each other out.

The data from this week and early October – September is the second-best tax month of the year – will let us know the room for manoeuvre on October 14.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Mini pause proves there are no easy routes to recovery

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Melbourne...continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

You think we have it bad this week – what with the delay in a full reopening?  You could be living in Melbourne. The city with a population of five million has been under almost continuous lockdown for most of the past two years.

Since March 2020, there have been 262 days of lockdown in Melbourne, across six periods where people’s movements were incredibly restricted. That included curfews between 9pm and 5am.

Australia and New Zealand were two of only a handful of countries in the world which pursued elimination, rather than containment, strategies with the virus, or Zero Covid as it was called.

For a long time, it seemed like the correct strategy, the one setting the standard. Both countries clamped down hard with very restrictive lockdowns and effectively closed their borders.

They threw all their resources into testing, contact tracing and even testing the wastewater. Those who were identified as cases and close contacts were isolated. The countries also introduced mandatory hotel quarantine.

And it was very effective; when the Alpha (Essex) strain hit Ireland and other countries in December and January, both countries were fully open and enjoying unrestricted access to stadiums, hotels, restaurants, schools. Anytime, there was the hint of an outbreak strict local and regional lockdowns were imposed, some for several weeks, some for longer.

Sure, there were long and severe lockdowns. But there was also a lot of freedom, over 450 days without restrictions.

The strategy only worked if you cut off the country completely from all other countries in the world. New Zealand, for example, did that because it did not have sufficient capacity to deal with the kind of crisis China and Italy had faced, when people died because they could not be intubated, or there were not enough ventilators to go around.

There were downsides. The cost, for one, was exceptionally high. It meant a huge diminution in people’s personal rights. Limited availability in mandatory quarantine hotels meant a lot of New Zealanders and Australians living abroad were prevented from returning home.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Budget throws up history of drama on Dáil’s longest day

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The longest day...Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s the biggest set-piece of the year in Irish politics, the one day of the political calendar when the Dáil chamber is full to the brim. And no matter how much the body politic is bludgeoned, Budget Day remains special.

There are some years in which the budgets are pass-remarkable but, then again, there are some years in which the budgets are just bloody remarkable.

In modern times none can really touch the drama of Charlie McCreevy’s announcement of decentralisation in December 2003. If it were to be done today, people would nod all round and say that’s a sensible enough proposal. But back then the notion of tens of thousands of public servants making an exodus from Dublin to the provinces was unfathomable and unthinkable.

The 2007 Budget was something else to behold. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger and there were concerns that the economy was overheating to a point that the boiler was about to explode – even if nobody fully realised it at the time. More critically there was an election to be won.

At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis before the election Bertie Ahern read out a shopping list of giveaways, harking back to the infamous Fianna Fáil manifesto of 30 years beforehand.

Ahern had been before the Planning Tribunal to explain political contributions and hand-outs he himself had got from his friends. The feelgood budget helped divert some of the heat away – and ultimately, it was enough to win the party a historic third term in government.

By the following spring, Ahern was gone and by that summer everything had ‘come to a shuddering halt’, to employ the phrase of the late Brian Lenihan Junior. Giveaway budgets tend to come back and bite you in the nether regions.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

NDP reheats old dishes – while kicking other cans down the road

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of this week's National Development Plan in Cork.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The new National Development Plan may be 180 pages long – but the vast majority of the 220 TDS and Senators would have confined their reading to one or two pages. Digested down, they read only what was relevant to their own neck of the woods – whether or not that school or hospital was being funded into the future, or if that long-promised road was going to get the go-ahead.

Even when it’s €165 million over a decade, when you boil it down, it never seems to add up to all that much when the local components are grouped together.

So what is the West getting? There’s the Moycullen bypass, but that’s happening already. The ring road around Galway is included, but that’s been talked about for over a decade now with no guarantee it will be finished within the lifetime of this plan.

There’s a new Emergency Department and ward block included for University Hospital Galway, which will be a big investment, and a welcome one. It’s likely that one of the three new elective hospital facilities under Sláintecare will be established in Galway, which will be a boost to the city and the region.

NUI Galway will also get a regeneration of its library under the plan.

There’s no such luck for the Western Rail Corridor. After a plethora of studies, the can is being kicked down the road again with yet another study.

The NDP says: “A Strategic Rail Review has recently been launched which will examine all aspects of the inter-urban and inter-regional rail network including decarbonising the railway, the feasibility of higher speeds, increased capacity, improved connectivity to the North-West and the enhancement of the Dublin to Mullingar railway line and the creation of a strategic plan for freight. The Western Rail corridor has the potential to revitalise the West of Ireland and the Strategic rail review will examine how it would be delivered.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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