As is now well known, Patrick Honohan, the Governor of the Central Bank, has suggested that some form of enquiry into the banking crisis should take place.  On 15th December, he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs:

“I expect that the Oireachtas will, in time, decide to authorise some form of inquiry to try to understand the deeper, underlying causes of this crisis so that wider lessons can be learnt for the future.”

I hope that such an enquiry (assuming Fianna Fáil can be persuaded to hold one) will include what, if anything, the in-house economists in the main banks were saying to their management, their risk allocators and their boards of directors during the critical years 2004 to 2006.    Read the rest of this entry »

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Every time I receive a gas bill or an electricity bill I get a bulky brochure.  The brochure mainly contains stuff that I have absolutely no interest in reading and, to add insult to injury, it is 100% larger than it needs to be because it’s printed in both English and Irish. 

What a disgraceful waste of paper, ink, fuel etc etc.  I am not given the option of receiving no brochure at all (a link to an online version would do nicely), nor am I given the right to opt out of the dual language version and get a slimline, monolingual version instead.  The price of submitting to the vanity of the extreme wing of the Irish language lobby is high, both socially and ecologically.

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I spotted a written answer this week to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD, Olivia Mitchell.  She had asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about the problems in publishing sale price data for residential property and about progress with a proposed legislative solution.

Minister of State Michael Finneran gave a written answer which was full of the usual prevarication and evasiveness, and he noted that “the Data Protection Act currently precludes the publication of data relating to specific sales prices achieved for individual houses without the consent of the purchaser and vendor involved in each transaction”.

However, in the course of his long-winded reply, a particular phrase he used was a classic:  “In terms of house prices, like housing markets throughout the world, the Irish housing market has moderated [my italics] significantly over the course of the last 18 – 24 months”.  

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Bertie’s board appointments

14 December, 2009

Shane Ross’s story last month about goings-on at Iarnrod Eireann and CIE was interesting on a number of fronts (see “CIE’s story of secrecy and evasion“).  Ross got his hands on an internal and highly-sensitive report on various malpractices and control failures which cost the company (i.e. the taxpayers) millions of Euros.  He wrote:

Next, the final Baker Tilly report travelled from the secretive steering committee to the CIE and Iarnrod Eireann audit committees in summer 2008. It was dynamite.

Down on the CIE audit committee it met some really interesting people. Unusually, for six months, the audit committee consisted of just two members. Such a tiny key committee must be another world record for a company with total spending of €1.2bn. Two audit committee vacancies remained unfilled at a critical time.

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Insuring Flood-prone Houses

11 December, 2009

One consequence of the recent floods is that Irish insurance companies will inevitably charge a higher premium to households which are located in low-lying or flood-prone locations.   They may even refuse insurance to such households.   Typically, in Britain, insurers require clients living in Flood Risk Areas to flood-proof their homes or face much higher premiums and excesses.  

According to today’s Irish Times, there is a  “flood blacklist” in Ireland, and “It’s the list you don’t want to be on. Insurers use geocoding to compile a list of areas liable to flooding, and then frequently blacklist homeowners living in those areas. Given the latest round of floods, this list is bound to get bigger…. While many insurance firms will exclude giving flood cover to homes in particular areas, others say they examine it on a case-by-case basis.”

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Typical of many attempts to influence Government tax (or other) policy is a statement which is reported today, in which Mike Kemp, Chief Executive of the Irish Insurance Federation is quoted as saying :

“Up to 2,000 jobs in the life and pensions industry may be lost due to the Government’s planned changes to pension tax relief and the implementation of levies. Obviously, the threat of job losses is never good and should be avoided at all costs. And in the current climate I find it astonishing that the Government is willing to put these jobs at risk while also severely damaging the Irish pensions industry”.

Mr Kemp would have been better advised to argue his case on its merits, rather than relying on any alleged effect on jobs in his sector of a change in tax treatment of pension contributions.  His case is a reasonable one, but he damages it by his approach.

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Bizarre or what?

3 December, 2009

Maybe this is a fancy foreign spelling.  Or maybe whoever drafted, proofed and printed these signs actually thought this was the way to spell “bazaar”.  Or much more likely, they weren’t absolutely sure, but didn’t care.   

It’s one of life’s little mysteries that despite access to Google, online dictionaries, spell checkers and good old-fashioned books made from dead trees, an increasing number of people have only a vague interest in ensuring words are spelt correctly, or indeed that any message they are trying to convey in writing can be readily understood by readers.