Wednesday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - October 08, 2014
By Finfacts Team
Oct 8, 2014 - 12:22 PM

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Irish Independent

The Government should unveil a €500m investment programme in the Budget to boost social housing and growth, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has said.

The think-tank said a crucial EU deficit target would be easily met by setting out a neutral Budget, without any extra measures beyond water charges.

But Professor John FitzGerald signalled the institute was not against income tax concessions, as long as the overall policy was prudent.

The assessment comes as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) more than doubled its growth forecast for Ireland this year to 3.6pc - one of the strongest IMF forecasts for any country. But the ESRI cautioned against any give-aways over the coming years, warning there should be a neutral budget for 2015, without any change to tax or spending, and for 2016.

The think-tank hiked its forecast for growth this year to 5pc - slightly more optimistic than the forecast from the Department of Finance of 4.7pc.

The ESRI predicted the country would be able to return to full employment earlier than the 2020 target set by the Government, and run a small budget surplus by 2016.

Restoring part of the Christmas bonus for pensioners in the Budget is being considered by the Government, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Coalition is also finalising its tax relief package, with the raising of the starting point for paying the USC and the cutting of the top rate of income tax on the shortlist.

Five years after the Christmas bonus was dropped, the Coalition is looking at the part-restoration of the double social welfare payment.

The once-off end-of-year payment for 1.2 million social welfare recipients, including pensioners, carers and the long-term unemployed, would be brought back incrementally over a number of years.

A return to the full bonus would give recipients an extra €188 in the run-up to Christmas, but this would cost €260m, so ministers are looking at a part-restoration as a gesture.

Amazon's tax arrangements with Luxembourg are being investigated by regulators, as the online retailer becomes the latest global company to be accused of striking tax-minimising deals with an EU member state that may break bloc rules.

Technology giant Apple's tax affairs in Ireland are already under the spotlight after European authorities in June launched a probe into a tax treatment they claimed amounts to illegal state aid.

Corporate tax avoidance has come under the spotlight on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years, as perfectly legal deals with authorities help companies save millions of dollars. Critics say the deals are a form of subsidy at ordinary taxpayers' expense.

The European Commission is examining whether Luxembourg broke EU state aid rules by agreeing a deal which allows Amazon to operate almost tax free in Europe.

Irish Times

The European Commission has approved a financing plan for the construction of two nuclear power plants in southwest England, effectively giving a green light to Britain to begin work on a new nuclear power plant in Somerset, 240km from the Irish coast.

In what is likely to be one of the final decisions by the outgoing European Commission during its current tenure, the EU’s executive arm ruled today that Britain could give French company EDF a guaranteed price of £92.50 per megawatt-hour for 35 years, plus a state guarantee of £10 billion, to build the plant at Hinkley Point.

The so-called “strike price” is roughly twice the current wholesale price of power.

In its decision published this morning, the European Commission said the financial aid being offered by Britain to the French company to build the plant was not in breach of state aid rules.

Sloppy service and poor staff training is putting Ireland’s reputation for hospitality at risk, food writer Georgina Campbell said when she announced her 2015 hospitality awards.

She said she and her team of assessors had come across many clusters of excellence around the country but also some “amazingly bad” service in hotels and restaurants.

“We’ve encountered some quite shocking experiences around the country,” she said. She recalled visiting one four-star hotel where she was put sitting down for dinner at a dirty table. “We had to draw attention to that and there was no apology. The whole service through that meal was disastrous. It wasn’t worth waiting for,” she said.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has warned his Cabinet colleagues key Coalition health reforms may be put at risk unless he is given a “realistic” spending allocation in next week’s budget.

Mr Varadkar is seeking a neutral allocation for next year, equal to the total amount provided for 2014.

This would comprise the €13.7 billion given to the Department of Health in last year’s budget, as well as a supplementary estimate “in excess” of €500 million to be provided in the coming weeks.

While declining to provide specifics, sources said the elements of Coalition health policy, such as free GP care for the under-sixes and the extension of the Breastcheck cancer programme, have yet to be implemented and could be at risk.

Irish Examiner

Airport charges at Dublin Airport are set to fall by 19%, on a cumulative basis, over the next five years — 3% more than originally envisaged.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation had, back in May, proposed a 22% reduction — from 2015 to 2019 inclusive — on the maximum amount the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) could charge airlines, on a per passenger basis, stating that the factors which had put charges under upward pressure in recent times had moved into reverse.

The DAA can now charge airlines a maximum of €10.30 per passenger, at the airport, in 2015, followed by a cap of €9.87 in 2016, €9.45 in 2017, €9.06 in 2018 and €8.68 in 2019.

According to acting commissioner, John Spicer the decision is based on “incentive regulation” and should be viewed as encouraging the DAA to realise efficiencies, via lower operating and financing costs, with a view to ultimately passing the benefits on to users.


Euro Topics:  Despite international airstrikes and Kurdish resistance, IS militias penetrated deep into Kobane on Tuesday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he feared the Syrian border city could soon be taken. Ankara must overcome its reservations vis-à-vis the Kurds and finally help defend Kobane, commentators urge.

Turkey must finally step in: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan must finally take resolute action against the IS extremists because they are his greatest enemies, the Financial Times demands: "Mr Erdoğan needs to stop equivocating. Isis is a grave danger to the entire region, Turkey included. At some point, the group could strike western targets inside Turkey to further its propaganda goals. Whatever enmity he may feel towards the Assad regime or the PKK, the risks to his own country posed by such a threat on its border are on an altogether larger scale. ... If he is to retain the confidence of his longstanding allies, Mr Erdoğan should move decisively against Isis and put an end to international perceptions that he is willing to dally with this deadly foe."

A high price for failed foreign policy: Twelve people died on Tuesday in Turkey's nationwide demonstrations against the government's inaction in Kobane. The government is paying the price for its misguided foreign policy, the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet comments: "The effects of the war are making themselves felt not just outside the country but within its borders. This vulnerability drove people onto the streets yesterday in the battle over Kobane. Moreover we can see that the IS sympathisers are growing more active both in the border region and in the big cities. The strategy of using radicals [of the IS] to eliminate [President] Assad in Syria and then letting the moderates win at the ballot has failed. [Prime Minister] Davutoğlus' stipulation that Turkey will only intervene in Syria with Assad as a target is an attempt to play the last trump card."

Mafia trial humiliating for Napolitano: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is to give evidence in court on October 28 about alleged secret negotiations between the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia in the early 1990s. Imprisoned mafia bosses are also to testify per video conference in the trial. The head of state should be spared this humiliation, mafia expert Francesco La Licata writes in the liberal daily La Stampa: "The state-mafia trial seems to have gotten out of control. It is rushing towards a destination that doesn't bode well for the country either politically or morally. Those who set the ball rolling have no intention whatsoever of sparing the state's highest representative the insult of having to testify alongside crème de la crème criminals, murderers and assassins like Toto Riina und Leoluca Bagarella. And this despite the fact that everyone knows this 'jamboree' won't help to do anything to establish the truth because it won't produce a single new piece of evidence."

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