Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - October 30, 2014
By Finfacts Team
Oct 30, 2014 - 11:54 AM

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Irish Independent

IRELAND has signed up to a global tax agreement together with dozens of other countries designed to put an end to banking secrecy and tackle international tax evasion.

The finance ministers of about 50 countries gathered in Berlin yesterday with over 30 of them, including Michael Noonan, signing a pact allowing for the automatic exchange of tax information.

Under the agreement, banks with foreign customers will have to forward details to tax authorities, which in turn will pass the information on to the various national authorities in the countries where the customers are based.

"Banking secrecy, in its old form, is obsolete," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said.

Mr Schäuble, who hosted the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes meeting in the German capital, said banking secrecy was no longer appropriate when people can "transfer their money all over the world at the press of a button via the internet".

We have iMacs, iPods, iPhones and iPads. But why didn't Apple call its hotly anticipated new smartwatch the iWatch?

he answer may lie with one Athlone-based company. Probendi, a software firm that is gearing up to make its own smartwatch, showed considerable foresight when it registered a Europe-wide trademark for the term "iWatch" in 2008.

As a result, Apple may have had to opt for the name 'Apple Watch' instead.

The small Athlone company was setup by an Italian living in the area, 50-year-old Daniele Di Salvo.

Its product is a communications service between professional organisations, such as some Italian police forces, which use it to transfer mugshots.

Brendan Keenan: WHEN those in authority want to make soothing noises to the natives, or sell the country's merits to foreign lenders, they tend to say that we have been here before. In the 1980s, deficits were bigger, and the national debt higher, and we got over that, didn't we?

Except that, in the world of finance and economics, one has never been here before. Underlying truths may be permanent (despite the endless ill-fated attempts to deny them) but nothing ever repeats itself exactly.

Take debt. Back in the 1980s it was a central obsession, with lots of colourful statistics. The one I remember best was that we had more foreign debt per person than the Poles. This was considered very shocking, perhaps because Poland was still a communist country.

Of course there was the fact that almost all the debt was government debt, just like a communist country. The Irish people themselves were as frugal as church mice.

Irish Times

The first step in unwinding the emergency legislation that underpinned pay cuts across the public service at the height of the financial crisis has been taken by the Government.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin yesterday secured the agreement of his Cabinet colleagues to delete a key section of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009.

The section being abolished gave the Government as an employer the right to cut core pay and adjust working hours in order to secure savings in the overall pay bill.

The Irish Times Ltd made a pretax profit of €5.4 million in 2013 as group revenues rose 3.6 per cent to €84.4 million.

Higher income from contract printing during the year more than offset a 4.3 per cent decline in newspaper advertising revenue and a 5 per cent drop in circulation revenue.

The company recorded an operating profit of €2.7 million, up from €1.7 million a year earlier. A gain on the dilution of its shareholding in the Gazette Group Newspapers and a past service credit on the company pension schemes contributed to an exceptional credit of €2 million.

The US Federal Reserve is shifting its focus to its first interest rate rise after ending an era of unprecedented asset purchases.

In a marked change of language, the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee highlighted an improvement in the US labour market. Dropping its previous view that there was “significant underutilisation” of labour resources it said this was “gradually diminishing”.

This signals a big shift in the Fed’s horizons away from aggressive monetary stimulus via its third round of asset purchases, or quantitative easing, and towards the need for an eventual rise in interest rates from their current level close to zero.

Irish Examiner

Has the Irish Water story reached a peak and is it going to go away any time soon?

After all, less than two weeks ago, ministers and others were finding it difficult to express confidence in the chief executive of the semi-state company. Since then, senior ministers, starting with Dear Enda, seem to have done a serious backflip and now appear to have full confidence in him again. Ultimately, it’s all down to Fine Gael and its rush to get this political dynamite out of the way before serious electioneering starts for early 2016.

Unfortunately unless Government, through those it has commissioned to address the problems in Irish Water, finds a ‘get out of jail card’, the writing is on the wall and that wall suggests that Fine Gael and Labour are going to have a torrid time whenever the next election comes along— in less than 18 months.


Euro Topics: EU must stand firm in gas dispute with Russia: A new round of negotiations between Ukraine, Russia and the EU aimed at finding a solution to the gas conflict of recent months begins today in Brussels. The conservative Danish daily Berlingske calls on the EU to tackle the talks with self-confident resolve: "The EU must seriously consider whether it is willing to bend to Russia's pressure for it to pay for Ukraine. If not, the EU must start thinking about an alternative now. The most recent [gas] stress test shows that the EU could get through the winter without Russian gas if it takes quick and coordinated action. It's also unlikely that the Russians will break off trade relations with the EU. The country needs money and oil prices are dropping. Some EU countries could sell Russian gas back to Ukraine no matter what Gazprom says. That will be expensive, true. ... But the Russians use gas as a weapon, and it's time we stopped letting ourselves be blackmailed."

EU contribution system outdated: The Netherlands has called on the EU to give member states more time to meet the latter's demands for additional payments. After the UK was called on to pay extra, the Netherlands has also been told to contribute an additional 642 million euros. The Hague has called for the EU to publish its budget calculations. The Christian social daily Trouw supports the country's stance: "Finance Minister Dijsselbloem is quite right to demand to see the data from the other countries before he transfers the money to Brussels. Fortunately this corrects the impression that the Netherlands violates previous agreements just because the consequences are unpleasant. A few parties in parliament are unfortunately insisting on such a course. But this raises the question of whether the EU's contribution system is outdated. Contributions, demands for extra payments and adjustments - it's one surprise after another in this circus. That would be a thing of the past if the member states let the EU put together its own big tax system. But unfortunately this discussion is impossible to have in the current Eurosceptic climate."

Hungary's Internet tax bad news for small firms: Thousands of people demonstrated again on Tuesday in Budapest against plans for a new Internet tax. The government had presented a modified law at the start of the week according to which firms will pay no more than 16 euros per month. But the Internet tax would still hit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hardest, journalist Ákos Gergely Balogh writes in the conservative opinion portal Mandiner: "The Internet tax would put the SMEs at a double disadvantage if the modified law put forward by [ruling party] Fidesz goes through. Firstly the tax could ruin the small and medium Internet providers unless they pass the costs on to the end users. ... Secondly in view of the high rates for Internet access the costs the Internet tax entails for SMEs would be a major financial burden."

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