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Money Times - June 27, 2017

Posted by Jill Kerby on June 27 2017 @ 09:00

LETTER TO LEO…

Dear Leo (if I may),

You haven’t had much of a political honeymoon, which seems a little unfair given the rapturous response you got from the international media as the first Irish Taoiseach to break the mould of the older, Catholic, straight white male with two Irish born parents (with the exception of Dev).

I expect your mum and dad are thrilled that you’ve been compared to the unconventional 30-somethings, Emanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau of Canada. Too bad you don’t share their popular electoral mandates.

But I think you might enhance your personal and party reputation before the next election if you act quickly and decisively on the ‘New Politics’ front. My beat is money and personal finance, so I’ll stick with that theme.

For example, I was impressed when you said a couple of months ago that you wanted a new transparent, (soft)compulsory, invested, sustainable pension system for Ireland.

I couldn’t agree more. But the entire system – private, public and old age State pension provision - needs to become sustainable, fair…and universal.  You’d certainly earn cudos (and make international headlines) if you agreed to transfer out of your shiny, gold-plated, indexed Defined Benefit Rolls Royce politician’s pension and sign up for a well managed, universal, defined contribution pension with say, a maximum tax relievable benefit of €60k a year. 

Making a significant dent in the housing/homeless crisis in Dublin would certainly bring you loads of cudos.

If you really wanted to, you could take a stand and bring in emergency legislation that would 1) stop foreign property investors/our own banks from kicking sitting tenants out of their homes; 2) end the obscene practice of domestic land bank speculators and property owners (including local authorities) leaving highly desirable vacant sites and buildings undeveloped; 3) end the free pass that AirBnB landords are getting when they convert whole properties into casual rental units for tourists, who have permanent homes of their own.

If you and your government can’t even do this right now, why should anyone bother to vote for you in the future?

About our dysfunctional public health sector, I have one suggestion. Open a dialogue with the private health service community to whom over 2.1 million people voluntarily (if reluctantly) hand over several billion euro a year in addition to their share of the c€15bn compulsory taxation that funds the HSE.

Private sector hospitals, clinics, practitioners, like GPs, dentists, consultants, nurses, physiotherapists and other technicians, etc, deliver their specialised skills and services in a professional, efficient and timely manner. This is because the decision-making and delivery of private sector healthcare is made by health professionals, not by administrators. They treat their patients like the paying clients they are.

I know how foreign this sounds within the unaccountable HSE bubble, but poor treatment, bad service, lawsuits means private healthcare operators go out of business; everyone loses – patients, doctors, nurses, technicians, support staff, investors.

If you think, like I do, that an affordable, universal health service, delivered to the same service standard as the Irish private health sector is ideal, then you need to stand up to the ideologues of the right and left, to vested political interests and reach out to the private healthcare community instead of vilifying them. Learn from them.

Higher taxes, housing, healthcare (public and private), education and transport costs continue to take their toll. So ease that burden:

-       Get rid of the 39% DIRT tax on savings. Cut the obscene 41% tax on investment funds to the standard tax rate of 20%. Higher taxes and near zero returns on deposits mean people are taking far more risk that they should to just beat inflation. Investment funds help parents put kids through college some day, or young people to save for a wedding or new home. A 41% tax on this level of risk/returns is just wrong.

-       Stop calling the USC (the universal social charge), ‘universal’. It is not. At the least, the 11% higher rate on income over €100k should apply to everyone with that income (including you) and not just the self-employed.

-       Sort out the foreign multi-national tax situation before Mr Macron does…to our detriment.

-       Stop the sneaky unfair levies like the 5% of car, home, travel, public liability insurance caused by the failure of reckless insurance operators and poorly designed compensation funds.

Finally, if you want the support of younger voters, end the long tradition of wealth transfers from young workers to old retirees.  Pensioners, especially the over 70s, are the wealthiest cohort in Ireland with the largest pool of savings and assets (especially property and pensions). They enjoy widespread tax exemptions and preferential rates; free universal healthcare and even universal asset preservation in death (the “Fair Deal” scheme).

Tackle this injustice Leo, and I might even vote for you.

 

 

Please send your queries to Jill c/o this paper or by email: jill@jillkerby.ie

 (The new TAB Guide to Money Pensions & Tax 2017 is now out. €9.99 in good bookshops. See www.tab.ie for ebook edition.)  

 

 

 

 

 

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