Thursday, December 20, 2012

20/12/2012: Pensions, health costs & education fees for 2014-2015

Staying with the IMF report on Ireland, and with the theme of 2014-2015 adjustments, here's again what the IMF had to say on what we should expect from the Government:

"The authorities should outline the remaining consolidation measures for 2014–15 around the time of Budget 2013 (MEFP ¶8). The program envisages additional consolidation of 3 percent of GDP over 2014–15. Taking into account the measures already specified for these years (such as on capital spending), and carryover savings from earlier measures, new measures of about 1½ to 2 percent of GDP remain to be identified for 2014-15."

I wrote about the above here. But there's more:

"To maximize the credibility of fiscal consolidation, and to reduce household and business uncertainties, the authorities should set out directions for some of the deeper reforms that will deliver this effort. These could include, for instance, on the revenue side, reforming tax reliefs on private pension contributions; and on the expenditure side, greater use of generic drugs and primary and community healthcare, and an affordable loan scheme for tertiary education to enable rising demand to be met at reasonable cost."

Further, per box-out on Health costs overrun: "there is scope for increased cost recovery in respect of private patients‘ use of public hospitals"

Hence, per IMF, the Government should hit even harder privately provided pensions (on top of the wealth tax already imposed), thus undermining even more private pensions pools and increasing dependency on state pensions. For those of us with kids, IMF - concerned with already unsustainably high personal debt levels - has in store more debt. This time to pay for our kids education. And for those of us with health insurance, there is more to pay too.

The above combination of measures is idiocy of the highest order. Per IMF, Irish economy is suffering from private debt overhang which leads to more deleveraging, less consumption and less investment. And these lead to lower growth. I agree. But what IMF is proposing is going to:

  • Increase private debts and reduce the speed of deleveraging, and
  • Raise the demand for already stretched public services.
This is the Willie Sutton moment for Ireland: the state (with the IMF blessing) is simply plundering through any source of money left in the country is a hope of finding a quick fix for Government insolvency. Now, with low hanging fruit already bagged, this process is starting to directly impact our ability to sustain private debts. But no one gives a damn! As Sutton, allegedly claimed, it makes sense to rob banks, because that is where the money are. Alas, with banks out of money, the Government, prompted by the IMF 'advice' is going to continue robbing us.

So a message to our Pensions industry, which hoped that going along with expropriation of customers' funds via pensions levy would allow the industry to avoid changes to tax incentives on pensions (the blood of the sector demand). Prepare for tax reliefs savaging. Once you fail to stand up to the bullies and protect the interests of your customers, you deserve what you are going to get. Every bit of it.

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