Irish citizens badly served by their Gov’t

People always make money in times of crisis. Some of the world’s most lasting fortunes have been accrued during recessions, depressions and even wars. It is just the way of things. We have seen it again in recent years in Ireland.

Just as international hedge funds profited by shorting our banks as the crisis escalated, a small number of global investment titans will, without doubt, make colossal fortunes acquiring distressed assets from those broken banks at knockdown prices.

The world of international finance which helped create the Irish bubble, has in turn profited from our country’s collapse and its recovery. When money is lost, it is also won. It is, after all, just the way of things.

Yet, the real issue is not with the people who have bought Ireland. Instead, it is with the people who have sold it. After all, it is the job of business to deliver profits and shareholder return. It is the job of government to regulate, to tax and to protect citizens. Somehow, Ireland’s policymakers managed to sell vast swathes of the country to a handful of vulture funds in a manner that left them broadly unregulated and largely untaxed. Should this be the way of things?

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For a number of months earlier this year, I worked on a television documentary on the flight of speculative capital into post-crash Ireland. The programme, The Great Irish Sell Off, was broadcast again last night. The response has surprised me. The production team has been contacted by an army of individuals whose loans – both personal and business debts – have been sold to vulture funds. Many had harrowing stories, and had, until the programme was broadcast, felt that they were alone.

But beyond the people directly involved, it has also led to broader debate about public policy. People are now discussing why so much was sold so quickly, and why so little tax has been paid on the upside. They are also asking if there was an alternative or another way.

The government has long maintained that there was not, and that offloading the toxic debts from the national balance sheet allowed bond yields to fall and Ireland to exit the bailout successfully. They also argue, not unreasonably, that the policy prescription was imposed by the troika.

Yet, in reality, the government made two key decisions that dramatically escalated the disposal strategy. The first was in early 2013, when the government liquidated the IBRC, the bank established to clean up the carcass of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

This allowed the government to eradicate the dreaded promissory notes, but it also meant that €21.7 billion of assets would be auctioned off within a matter of months. When the bank was liquidated, the government thought as little as 10 per cent of this would be snapped up by cash rich international buyers.

In the end, they bought all but 10 per cent. The success owes much to the ingenuity of the special liquidators KPMG, but also showed the wall of money that was interested in Ireland – at a low price.

The second decision came later that year when Michael Noonan, the finance minister, asked Nama to examine fast-tracking its asset disposal timeline. The move came just months after vulture fund Lone Star cornered Noonan at the World Economic Forum in Davos and asked to buy all of Nama outright.

Noonan said no, but it planted a seed. A formal decision was made the following year when it was agreed Nama would offload much of its remaining loan book by the close of 2016, four years ahead of the original timeline. Again, this decision brought billions of euro in distressed debt to the market.

The government was conscious that other countries such as Spain would also try to sell toxic assets, and it wanted to capture as much of the foreign capital before it was lured elsewhere.

The strategy, however, also allowed Noonan and Fine Gael to tick some political boxes, and claim credit for shutting Anglo and calling time on Nama.

But those decisions had massive consequences and we are seeing this now. For a start, the expedited nature of the sales process meant that Nama, and to a lesser extent IBRC, has been forced to sell multibillion portfolios rather than smaller debt bundles. This limited the number of potential buyers to a handful of massive funds such as Lone Star, CarVal, Cerberus and Goldman Sachs.

It also meant that we were left unprepared for the arrival of such funds. This has been seen numerous times, and on each occasion, the government has been left playing catch-up. First, we saw the fact that many of the buyers of mortgages were unregulated and outside the scope of the Central Bank. Many have signed up to a code of conduct, while intermediaries are now regulated. The owners of the mortgages, however, remain unregulated.

Second, we saw it in the case of Tyrrelstown, whereby a deal between the developer of an estate and Goldman Sachs resulted in eviction letters sent to 40 tenants. This exposed Ireland’s lack of rental security.

We have also seen it in terms of tax. As our programme revealed, 25 subsidiaries of vulture funds paid less than €18,000 in tax on assets of close to €20 billion, with an estimated loss to the exchequer of €700 million.

Vulture funds were ready for Ireland. Yet Ireland, despite courting them heavily, was not prepared for vulture funds.

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This is not a debate about sovereignty in a “who really owns Ireland” manner. Yes, it is about where the profits go, what these assets are used for, and how these assets are taxed. But ultimately it is a problem we will still be dealing with in 20 years’ time. That is the legacy of bad policy, poor vision – the missed opportunity that led to worse outcomes for our citizens.

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Brexit..Hard or Soft is a problem

https://www.nerinstitute.net/blog/2017/06/09/life-is-based-on-many-assumptions-until-they-prove/

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Ireland’s housing crisis

https://www.nerinstitute.net/blog/2017/06/02/housing-for-homes-a-classic-case-of-market-failure/

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Odd bits from Wednesday’s Press

Trump, meanwhile, faces bipartisan opposition to his budget plans to take from the poor and give to the wall. The president wants to reduce spending by $3.6tn – slashing everything from Medicaid to Meals on Wheels – while putting an extra $2.6bn into border security including the Mexico barrier. Powerful Republicans are against it. Harold Rogers said: “The cuts are draconian.” John McCain declared Trump’s proposals were “dead on arrival”.
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Today’s Good News
Unemployment dropped below 7%
Figures released yesterday show that the labour market continued to improve in the first three months of this year, with the number of people at work rising by more than economists had expected – by 68,000 – and the unemployment rate dropping below 7 per cent for the first time since August 2008.
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Facebook Files – The social network lets users spread Holocaust denial even where it’s illegal, if it can get away with it, we reveal today in our continuing investigation. Here are Facebook’s own instructions to its moderators on the subject (warning: disturbing content). And according to one internal source, Islamist extremists are getting around restrictions because moderators only have 10 seconds to decide whether to delete a post. In doing so they are supposed to refer to a manual that is 44 pages long and contains names and faces of 646 terrorist leaders and their groups. “Mission impossible,” says the insider.
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Young children’s maths, English and communication skills improve if they use iPads in school on a regular basis.
That is one of the key findings of the most in-depth research of its kind ever carried out in Northern Ireland.
The study – Mobile Devices in Early Learning – was carried out over two years and involved about 650 pupils in five Belfast primary schools and five nursery schools.
Schools which took part were in some of the most deprived areas of the city.
They were each supplied with sets of iPads for nursery, primary one, primary two and primary three classes.
Researchers from Stranmillis University College then assessed how pupils, parents, principals and teachers used them over the course of two years.
Among their key findings were that:
■ The introduction of digital technology has had a positive impact on the development of children’s literacy and numeracy skills
■ Contrary to initial expectations, principals and teachers report that the use of ipads in the classroom has enhanced children’s communication skills
■ Children view learning using handheld devices as play and are more highly motivated, enthused and engaged
■ Boys appear to be more enthused when using digital technology, particularly when producing pieces of written work
IPads helped young children to be more motivated and engaged in class, said Dr Colette Gray from Stranmillis, who was one of the study’s authors.
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Business
The ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded China’s debt and said it expects the country’s financial strength to erode in the coming years despite reform. The downgrade – China’s first since 1989 – pushed the yuan lower but also hit the Australian dollar, which is closely linked to the fortunes of the Chinese economy. 
Moody’s may consider China’s rampant debt a problem but its consumers are still going strong. They helped Jaguar LandRover sell 32% more vehicles in China last year, the UK-based manufacturer said, as it recorded global sales of more than 600,000.
The pound was buying $1.297 and €1.159 overnight.
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Brexit and Gibraltar !

As we all know well over 90% of Gibraltarians voted to Remain within the EU. Having your cake and eating it comes to mind since well over 90% voted in a referendum to Remain in UK !
Lets be clear what Gib is and is not. In years gone by when the strength of your Navy was significant, especially when you had an Empire to manage and protect, then being able to contril the Gib Straits was important and worth fighting about. Methods of modern warfare have greatly reduced this kind of importance. So it is Not the strategic navel base of old.
Such is the topography of Gib that one would have trouble even raising a herd of mountain goats on it! Gib’s own website gives us a few very good clues as to what Gibraltar Is in the 21st century. From their own website ” Highly developed business services imfratructure where it is possible to passport an EU licence in finacial sevices…….. distribute competitively priced VAT-free goods and services to the markets of the EU and Africa. Conduct bussiness in a quality low-tax jurusdiction….. low levels of corporate tax. and few restrctions in moving capital or repatriating dividends”. To help provide such a wondeful range of services there are 17 registered banks, including the recently (March 2017) raided money laundering giant Credit Suisse, and RBS/Natwest’s exposed tax avoidance offices.
A perfect description of a modern Tax Haven, where there is a registered off-shore company for every 4 Gibraltarians. Population 32,000, off-shore companies 8,464.
In a nutshell, it provides a service to well heeled companies and individuals to avoid or minimise paying their fair share of tax in their own country, ie. it robs other countries’ Governments of badly needed income to provide vital services to their citizens. The funds in question may have been earned legally or illegally eg. drug running, people trafficking, or any other profitable criminal activity. Of course they are not on their own (BVI, Cayman, Jersey, IoM, Bermuda, City of London, IFSC,Dublin etc) in providing such services which most of us have become much more informed about and have come to understand the damage they do in both the developed world and developing world.
The political side of the discussion is often clouded by referencing the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, in which Gib was given “in perpeptuity” to England. In fact it was occupied by the Hessian Prince George in 1704 and 90% of the Spanish population fled after being subjected to mass raping and pillaging.
The much mentioned treaty of 1713 was in fact a collection of treaties between various European powers whereby the victors were dividing up the spoils of recent wars. Many, indeed most, of the areas covered in the Treaty are no longer recognisable in the modern world 300 years on. EG. Englsnd was granted an exclusivity on the shipping of African slaves to Spanish colonies; much of present day Italy was given to the Austrian Hapsburgs; most of Brazil was given to Portugal; the little duchy of Savoy was given Sicily. There is virtually nothing of this Treaty recognisable in the 21st century,,,, but the UK Foreign Office frequently cite it as one of the main reasons that Gib must remain a part of the UK !
The UN General Assemly Resolution 2352 specifically asserts “that Gibraltar is a colony which impinges on the territorial integrity of Spain and thus on Spanish right to self-determinationand that a referendum of the colonistscould not change that.”
Of course in the referendum 95% voted to stay within UK and within the EU, naturally ‘cos this gives greatest access to those who wish to use their Secrecy Jurisdiction/Tax Haven services.
As a member of England’s oldest colony I may just have a slightly tainted viewpoint, but to be truthful whether The Rock is part of UK, Spain or is Independent is of less concern to me than the ending of the tax avoidance/evasion services and other facilities which support and add to the growing inequality in our world, both locally and internationally.
We all need to exposed and object to this financial cancer which is incubated and fostered in such juisdictions.

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Rule #1 in politics-Never invade Afganistan.H McMillan 1963

Obviously Tony Blair either wasn’t aware of this or didn’t believe it. Britain invaded, fought in and retreated beaten from Afganistan 4 times in the last 170 years. 1842, 1880, 1919 and most recently 2014 which was in good PR speak described as a withdrawal. The count, 453 deaths and thousands maimed and injured.
At one stage since their entry in 2006 Britain had 137 bases, mainly in Helmand province. Bastion was the first, the largest and the last to close on 27th Oct 2014. At its peak over 30,000 personnel lived in this Base. It had coffee bars, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, 3 gyms, state-of-the-art hospital and its own water bottling plant producing 15,000 gallons a day. They clearly meant to stay there.
At one point it was the UK’s 3rd busiest airport after Healthrow and Manchester.
Bastion was built and dismantled by engineer Lt Colonel Laurence Quinn. “It’s like trying to pack up a town the size of Aldershot (37,000) but with Gatwick airport bolted on to it”.
Fifty aircraft stationed there had to go back plus 3,300 armoured vehicles including a number of “Mastiffs & Wolfhounds”, huge 6 wheeled armour-caged monsters which cost over £1 million each. All in all some 5,500 40ft containers were returned to the UK.
All that remained was a few empty hangers and the rusty barbed wire and watch towers on the 23, yes twenty three mile perimeter of the base. The planning of the departure/retreat was meticulous following severe instructions from Whitehall “We don’t want anything that vaguely looks like helicopters fleeing from the US Embassy in Saigon.”
This coalition of the willing, 48 countries, lost 3,484 troops and spent about $1 trillion, $1,000,000,000. A war Obama called “the good war”!!
Perhaps McMillan got it right? The most advanced countries in the world, with satellites in the sky 24/7, 140,000 troops deployed and bombs the size of family cars raining down on one of the poorest countries in the world failed to defeat a ragtag group of religious students & farmers led by a one-eyed mullah.
Why did they even bother?

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The Free Market, the only way to go??

As we know the USA is the bastion and the major promoter of the Free Market, minimum Gov’t interference, minimum regulation (eg. no maternity leave, no legalised annual vacation), low or no minmum wage, minimum taxes,  every man for himself more or less, you get picture.

For a whole variety of reasons there is an ongoing epidemic of deaths from overdosing on opiates and heroin in this “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”. The latest years Govt produced figures are for 2015, current estimates put deaths from overdosing on these two drugs to be close to 1,000 per week!

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One Corporation in particular is doing something about it , Kaleo has been marketing EVZIO, (oloxone HCI injection) basically a self administered injectable antidote. The graphs above display the huge and growing need/demand for such a product. Here’s where the Free Market really comes into its own; when demand is increasing and the supply is limited (because you control it thru patent/intellectual property laws), then economic theory says the price will rise,,,,,, and boy has it risen !

EVZIO cost $690 a unit in 2014, the 2017 price is $4,500! A 650% increase. In fairness many USA companies have learned this basic economic theory; fresh faced MBA graduates from Ivy League colleges get paid small fortunate to explain it to them. Hospira Corp. market a cheap version of a similar item, which has only increased 230% in the last 3 years, from $62.29 to $142.49.

if you are wondering why you haven’t heard about Kaleo’s rip off maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that it’s a product that is only needed by drug users? “They made their bed let them lie in it”. ” Am I my brothers keeper?” .If they want to blow their minds that’s their problem”. “What do they contribute to society anyway” But if your Patent Lawyer has secured your intellectual property rights for the next 17 years then these “no hopers” are hugely important……. To your bottom line!

We all heard the public furore on TV and in the media when Mylan Corp raised it’s Epipen prices by 400% (and its CEO get her salary increased to €18,976,000 pa). But that was different, the users of Epipens are good people, just like you and me and it’s the ugly side of the Free Market when it starts to screw “normal people”, but in the end the System won, she’s still getting her €18 Mil and we’re all paying way over the odds for Epipens.

PS. Don’t ask the obvious question. Why is this epidemic of death from overdosing happening in the richest, most vibrant, militarily mightiest, country in the world?

 

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