Monday, May 17, 2010

Economics 17/05/2010: Jose Maria Aznar's proposals that ireland should adopt

When Spain beats you in a race of setting out pro-market reforms, can you still claim you are open for business? Well, that's a conundrum Ireland is likely to face. For 'all talk, no action' Messrs Cowen & Lenihan, here's a proposal from Spain's José Marià Aznar - a rather sensible list of reforms Spain needs to adopt in the next few years, published in FT:

  1. Large-scale labour reform to transform collective bargaining (equivalent to killing off our own Social Partnership to which Messrs Cowen & Lenihan seem to be totally wedded), deregulate labour recruitment services (which is now out of reach for Ireland since Messrs Cowen & Lenihan subscribed to the Croke Park deal) and, lower taxes on employment (which is, of course, an impossibility for Ireland as we continue destroying our domestic and exporting capacity by saddling workers with the bills for banks and public sector rescues) and encourage the unemployed into work (a possible by-product of the next wave of public spending cuts, but not a concerted effort that pairs both negative and positive incentives and access to training and entrepreneurship resources for the unemployed);
  2. a new energy policy to avoid the shutdown of nuclear plants, deregulate markets and cut subsidies on inefficient renewable energy sources (which, of course, would run counter to our Government's insistence on preserving ESB's market power and building windmills to escape modernity. Do note that our refusal to properly deregulate energy distribution rests on the Government continued protection of the ESB trade unions' interests in maintaining their ownership of the national grid);
  3. a bank shake-up, including authorising the investment of private capital in savings banks (yeah, right, as if we really have a chance of reforming our banks with Nama assuring they will remain zombie lenders for a good part of the next 10 years);
  4. sweeping reforms to reduce the size of regional administrations and create a viable and efficient state (again, we have no reform agenda on local authorities, and no reform agenda on creating any meaningful efficiency gains in the public services);
  5. changes to the state pension system to guarantee its mid-term and long-term sustainability (in Ireland's case, this is equivalent to the earlier Government promise to... create a new compulsory quasi-tax on our incomes that would underpin state-controlled, privately supplied pension system, while maintaining the status quo of inefficient, and politically manipulated social security);
  6. deregulation to increase competition, including reforms to the welfare state and further privatisation of public companies (Messr Cowen & Lenihan have not got this far, and are unlikely to get there in the future. Instead of stimulating private growth by opening state-controlled markets to competition and breaking up Government near-monopolies, our Government is keen on actually providing more cash for semi-states to engage in 'investment' which normally - DAA, anyone, or ESB - yields no real returns to the economy, but always acts to increase market power of these semi-states);
  7. tax reform to foster competitiveness (again, not a peep on this one from Messrs Cowen & Lenihan. Instead of tax reforms, we have Commission on Taxation report and a promise of pushing tax rates even higher in the next couple of years. Take a wild guess which 'programme' will this Government pursue).
That's right, folks. Our ex-politicians now line up to take state jobs at the insolvent banks. Spain's ex-leaders are trying to design new policies. Any idea who's got a better shot at a recovery?

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