Debate Questions

I found last night’s debate a bit depressing. Many people had suspected that the five-way debate would prove to be an unsatisfactory format for useful discussion. In the event, it was worse than I had expected. In particular, the combination of poorly phrased questions from the audience (two of the first three questions were essentially “what are you going to do about emigration?”) and ad hoc and unevenly distributed follow-ups from Pat Kenny, served the audience at home fairly poorly.

There’s two more debates to go, albeit one of them as Gwaelge (as they say in RTE). How about we open a thread for Irish Economy blog participants to suggest questions that could be used in the remaining debates?

Here’s a few starters for ten:

1. Fine Gael are planning to reduce public sector employment by 30,000 and Labour by 18,000. Can this be achieved without breaking the Croke Park agreement ruling out involuntary redundancies or without affecting front-line services? (The core administrative civil service only has about 30,000 employees).

2. The European Commission says that it expects Ireland to be borrowing in the bond market again in the second half of next year. Should Ireland look for a bigger lending package from the EU and IMF to delay this return to the bond market or, if you accept this timeline, how do you plan to raise these funds?

3. It appears that the EU authorities want the Irish banks to repay the almost €100 billion they have borrowed from the ECB and the €50 billion that they have borrowed from the Irish Central Bank and to do this soon. How do you plan to deal with these requests?

44 thoughts on “Debate Questions”

  1. Why are the only party leaders advocating on behalf of the rights of the citizen-serfs of Ireland excluded from this debate?

  2. Can you please describe the society you wish you live in and express the required level of taxation/spending as a rough measure of GDP.

  3. FACT #1: Households in Ireland pay some of the highest electricity
    prices in Europe http://www.energy.eu/#Domestic

    FACT#2: The recent Poyry Report commissioned by Eirgrid http://www.eirgrid.com/media/Low%20Carbon%20Generation%20Options%20for%20the%20All%20Island%20Market%20(2).pdf concluded that a generation portfolio containing Nuclear Power in Ireland results in lower domestic electricity costs (Fig 37) and lower emissions (Fig 36) than renewables (e.g. wind & wave).

    In the light of these facts will your government repeal the ban on Nuclear Power [Electricity Regulation Act, 1999] ??????

    If not, why not ?

  4. A starter for 10: when you go to Brussells to renegotiate the current EU/IMF deal how do you intend to keep a straight face when the others in the room tackle you about the amount of money you pay your public servants, both active and retired, on an annual basis?

  5. Some politically-incorrect questions:

    For Eamonn Gilmore:

    FF and New Labour both came to power in Q2 1997. Between Q2 1997 and Q3 2010, Ireland’s real GDP increased by 70 per cent and the UK’s real GDP increased by 30 per cent? That being the case, why should anyone vote Labour on Feb 25, given that their policies are even more left-wing than New Labour’s?

    For Enda Kenny:

    Will you support an immediate reduction in the Corporation Tax rate in Northern Ireland to 12.5 per cent? The parties up there are in favour of the idea (although the loyalists, as ever, are a bit cautious in public in relation to anything that smacks of all-Ireland harmonisation). The current UK government is also quite sympathetic (since their long-term aim is to get shot of N. Ireland). The existence of a 12.5 per cent Corporation Tax rate in Northern Ireland is the best bulwark against German/French attempts to impose a higher rate of Corporaton Tax on the Republic of Ireland?

  6. RE:Q1

    A more pertinent question (raised today by Keenan in the Indo), do we really want to reduce Public Sector number rather than pay? Is fewer workers on higher wages really what our PS needs?

  7. 1. At the 2007, election at the peak of the bubble, FG and Labour both proposed policies that would have mede the bubble worse (FG – reduce stamp duty, Lab – reduce income tax). What reform of the political system would have prevented these poor policies and when will you implement such reform.

    2. When do you pledge to have a personal insolvency regime fully in force and up and running?

    3. What are you going to do to avoid the serious psychological damage and trauma for those unemployed people whom you canot provide jobs for in the next couple of years?

    4. What public work schemes will be in place for the unemployed, when will they be introduced and how many places wil there be? Can these be exchequer neutral?

    5. We have been waiting two years for an bank resolution legislation and for insolvency legislation. What reforms will you put in place to improve the quality and speed of the process of drafting legislation.

    6. Will you remove the system whereby the state subsidises civil servants to become politicians by guaranteeing their jobs? If not, will you introduce financial benefits for private sector workers to even matters up?

    7. Ireland is a small open economy. How will you manage Ireland’s economy to minimise the effect of external shocks which will inevitably affect it (due to its openess) from time to time.

    8. What reforms will you implement to make civil servants accountable for misconduct or poor performance in their jobs in the same way that a private sector employee is accountable, i.e. will you reduce the threshold for serious misconduct?

    9. Will you implement proper monitoring of teacher performance and will you require school principals to enforce monitoring?

    10. What measures will you out in place to deal with insolvent local authorities?

    11. How is FG banking formulated? Noonan’s current policy is aligned with Brian Lenihan’s policy and is at odds with previous benaking policy set out by Richard Bruton.

    12. What is the point of voting for Labour when they have ruled out coalition with those parties whose policies an ideology is closer to theirs?

  8. For Gilmore and Kenny:

    What are you going to do if (when) the IMF/EU refuses to renegotiate the bailout and tell you to take it or leave it?

    For Martin:

    Do you think that Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams have the right idea about rejecting the bailout when we see that both Fintan O’Toole and Brian Lucey are advocating a very similar strategy?

  9. To Martin:

    Minister, as you were responsible for the change and reform of the Health system, do you think it is acceptable that Mary Harney received:

    1. Pension Lumpsum 160K
    2. Termination Lumpsum 17K
    3. 12 months termination payments from the House of the Oireachtas adding up to additional 67K
    4. Pension in excess of 120K per annum – 70K plus 50K –

    De facto, had Ms. Harney be re elected she would have earned 30K less in yearly salary than what she is entitled to in retirement coming in at 120K.

    Do you not think that this is a grossly unjust example, and just one of many ?

  10. 13. What measures will you take within your first 180 days in office to reduce costs for small businesses?

    14. FG and Labour control many county councils where they have not reduced commercial rates. This is despite the huge planning staffs no longer being required. Will FG/Labour enforce redundancies within those local authorities and reduce rates?

  11. To Gilmore:

    Eamon, do you have regrets that you did not call onto the Irish public to enter a general strike, blockade the entry to governments building etc. when it became clear that we are supposed to bail out German, French and UK banks on the back of the taxpayer and the government is selling the country down the Swanny?

  12. The libel laws have prolonged and worsened almost every scandal in the history of the State – the abuse of children in institutions, Charles Haughey’s finances, and our banking scandals. Will you make immediate reform of the libel laws a central plank of your program for institutional reform?

    (Not specifically an economic question, I know. But I think this is one of the most necessary reforms, and in the long run it is likely to have an important impact on the quality of our economic and financial management just as in other areas. I’m dismayed to see that this key issue has slipped off the radar again, just as talk of systemic reform is in the air.)

  13. I meant “the abuse of children in institutions, Charles Haughey’s finances, and our banking scandals among others” of course.

  14. At all:

    Do you think it is sustainable that Ireland can have 50% extra PS pay, 50% extra PS pension, 100% extra dole and 100% extra OAP than the UK?

  15. Off topic but PK put it to Gilmore that whilst Labour were against the blanket guarantee they would have instead nationalised the banking system including Anglo/INBS. Gilmore defended without denying the assertion. Anyone remember did the Labour Party propose the nationalisation of Anglo/INBS?

  16. 1. On entering office, will you publish in full your programme for government, appoint an independent auditing body to track and make public its progress, and provide clear and concise rationals as to any changes which may be necessary due to a changing environment?

    2. In reforming the Dail and the Local Authorities, will you set out how such reforms are more, not less, democratic, and how government is being made more, and not less accountable?

    3. Will you minute and make public all significant intra and inter government decisions on the economy and have no ‘side notes’, unstated verbal understandings or similar?

    4. Will you commission Mr Karl Whelan to make himself, or commission from relevant experts, continued, regular informed presentations on the economy and publicise same, such that the TDs of government (who will be required to read same under the whip system), and the public may be well informed.

    5. Will you request a Mr JohntheOptimist (email available on request) to introduce the economists of the Central Bank to the delights of accurate forecasting via an intensive 2 day workshop.

    6. Will you request George Soros, Paul Stiglitz and Warren Buffet to provide their best presentation on how Ireland should deal with its current issues in an international contect?

    7. Will you inform a Mr. Keith Cunneen that we have his point with regard to debt money, and as and when the revolution comes we will turn to him?

    8. Will you require a Mr Bond to commission a proper scientific survey of the decision making process of Bond holders to ascertain their actual thought processes in making significant financial decisions, particularly with regard to the relative impact of reported figures, forecasts and media impact.

    9. Will you lay out a stocks on Stephens Green and require all board members of Banks in office on the night of the guarantee to attend same for a duration commensurate with public subsidy of said Banks? Will you provide the public with cheeses and soft fruit for effective operation of same?

  17. I’d quite like to play the hypothetical SF game.

    How long could we last if we burned all bondholders and refused IMF/EU loans. Selling State assets, using the last of the NPRF and other cash balances whilst still keeping our 3% target.

    1 year, two years? Do you guys the bond markets would forgive us on the otherside?

  18. To Fine Gael and Labour:

    What will you do if the terms and conditions, other than a small reduction in the interest rates, of any new permanent loans facility agreed at the EU summit on 24-25 March offers worse conditions from Ireland’s perspective than the terms and conditions that apply to the 85bn euro loans we’re already signed up to?

  19. @ Brian Woods II
    The British Labour Party nationalised Northern Rock. I think that was a good strategy.

  20. @Gormley
    Why did you allow our government to burn €50bn we didn’t have on Anglo/INBS

    @Martin
    IF it takes 100 bn to fix the banks, 70 % of GDP and 50% of all income tax at 6% interest do you accept that
    1. There is no chance that there will be a significant growth in the economy as all available cash will be sucked from the economy to pay foreign bond holders, the ECB and German, French and U.K. banks
    2. That whatever “savings” can be made we expect to see a gradual deteration in public services as tax revenue is diverted to pay foreign stakeholders and gamblers
    3. That unlike Japan who can support a 200% GDP/debt ratio because they are able to set their own interest rates and most debt is domestic and interest paymants are hence internal transfer payments we cannot possibly support, or hope to support such a ratio.

    @Kenny
    1. Why did you go an meet Merkel and not a recently unemployed breadwinner who is about to lose his home.
    2. Why did you attack Gilmore about his idea of a national investment bank, whats your problem. Surely it is worth a try.

    @Gilmore
    1. Why dont you just say it – Irelands taxes as a percentage as of GDP is amoung the lowest in the “developed world” which explains how we are able to save 10% net of personal income in these troubled times. If you want to maintain public services and try some your job measures you will have to increase taxes – You could have said “read my lips more taxes, particularly on those who can afford it”. Try honesty it works.

    @Gerry
    Irelands fiscal deficit is so huge you cant square the circle. If you refuse the make cutbacks, keep everybody in their houses and keep the public sector going you wont be able to do it even if you save 20bn by not giving another penny to Anglo. You know that can’t be done even if you increase taxes on the €100k plus and cut all the consulatants to €100k.

    You have been in Government in the North and you know this can’t be done. Maybe you’re playing a long game to become the defacto opposition I don’t know but again honesty would go down well

  21. @Brendan

    Thank you: I wasn’t aware that a fair-and-reasonable-publication defence had been brought in. I hope it’s sufficiently strong to really sweep away the old problems, but I suppose that depends partly on factors that go beyond the letter of the law.

  22. 15. Fine Gael are proposing a levy on existing pension funds rather than a reduction in the tax exemption for pension contributions? Is this a tax on assets rather than income? Why are we paying people to squirrel away income at a time when the economy is on its knees?

  23. 16. Is SF’s economic policy the equivalent of a three card trick where SF knows the public can never gets to call to see SF’s card because SF will not be in government? Would SF go ahead with their plan even if they were told they would not be able to return to the bond markets and would have to balance the budget immediately?

  24. Two part question:

    1. Do you think the country as experienced any budgetary deterioration since March 2010, which you did not forsee at the time?

    2. In its clarification of the Croke Park agreement, issued in May of this year, the Government indicated that the provisions in paragraph 1.28 of the agreement, which stated that, “the implementation of this Agreement is subject to no currently unforeseen budgetary deterioration”, would be applied in a bona fide manner”. Do you think this has been applied in a bona fide manner?

  25. Is it true that FG are going to be making newly qualified teachers (in their first ‘H Dip’ year after completing training) work for free thereby not only not paying them or even letting them qualify for unemployment benefit, but also using that free labour to not take on/not keep other teachers?

    It will cut current teaching posts and make it even harder for the newly qualified to get paid work/a real job – they will end up being treated just like free interns are now (i.e. abused). Many will give up and then in a few years time there will be no teachers just when we need them.

    I think we should be told because it sure as hell sounds like it’s going to happen.

    Education, education, education eh?

  26. Do you think Ireland is solvent? If so, why do you think Irish bonds are valued on the assumption that we will default on our sovereign debt?

  27. The Economist described the “Data Deluge” phenomenon as the next Industrial revolution in an special report last February (Feb 2010).

    What policy will be implemented for Ireland to reap the benefits. (Also – did anybody even read it)

  28. @Zhou

    16. Is SF’s economic policy the equivalent of a three card trick where SF knows the public can never gets to call to see SF’s card because SF will not be in government? Would SF go ahead with their plan even if they were told they would not be able to return to the bond markets and would have to balance the budget immediately?

    1. FF economic policies didn’t work-The bankers/FF & developers screwed mother Ireland.
    2. FG economic policies won’t work.-The bank debt is too high.
    3. Labour economic policies won’t work. The bank debt is too high and they refuse to cut higher level pay. FG also refuse to cut pay.
    4. SF policies will not work because conventional experts say they won’t work but there will be less bank debt.
    5. Mainstream economist plans won’t work. The bank debt is too high.
    6. In answer to a question raised on this site as to whether there was an agreed method for calculating the State cost of the bank debt, I was told it was too complicated and too uncertain.
    It looks like most of the country intends to continue standing in the middle of the road. Not a good place to stand as Churchill one pointed out.

  29. @JR – I still want them to answer the question – are they willing to balance the budget if that is what it takes to avoid unsustainable sov debt.

    more questions:

    18. What are the three biggest new challenges which will face Ireland over the next 30 years.

    19. What division of powers and responsibility are you aiming for as between the EU Commission, the European Council, the European in 30 years time.

    20. How much of a pension can a 30 year old (a) in the public sector and (b) on the state pension, expect to to get when they retire?

    21. What policies would you implement to fight alienation, isolation and lonliness in the modern era of atomised society?

    22. How do you plan to bring greater expertise to bear in the formulation of your party’s policies in years to come?

  30. @Ryan

    It is very clear that the country is going to go bankrupt towards the end of 2012 early 2013 when the cash flow from the IMF/ECB patch turns seriously negative.

    This is all so simple i am amazed no politician is saying it.

    Talking about repo the ECB bank funding, come on pull the other one i wouldn’t buy at 0.1 to euro. These will not resell as bankruptcy is the inevitable result of FF policy. It is just a matter of when.

    If Obahama had given Lehmans et at al an unlimited guarantee the US would now be bankrupt and the the 0.5 to the euro. If Iceland had given an unlimited guarantee they would now be facing 15% unemployment and no growth for a decade. If the u.k. had given an unlimited guarantee the IMF would be in Ireland. If I had given uncle Seanie, the family gambler and alcoholic an unlimited guarantee I would be facing the highs they try court as they try to kick me out of my house.

    Bad things happen to people who make stupid decisions. It is called Darwinism and is why we are not all dinosaurs and people generally vote in democracies for parties who represent their best interest.

    The problem with Irish politics is that nobody seems to represent the national interest.

  31. @Karl

    You are right, I looked at the debate from Scotland online, a recent forced emigration and i saw nobody of any caliber whatsoever. Very depressing.

    Nobody seemed to have even the an inkling of understanding of the economic crisis that is unfolding.

  32. @zhou

    Rather than all your questions I think you should start at something more basic questions and see what response you get.

    1. My income is 30k. I currently earn 11k .but could probably get 18k if i sqeezed my employers a bit more should I;

    1 Lie to my employers and tell them that I am going to reinviogoate, transform, re-invent my life to reach balance.

    2. Go to my not so friendly bank manger mister EMF/IMF and ask him will he sub me the 19k a year until I decide to do something.

    3. Give my uncle Seanie, the down and out gambler 20k because he is systemic and I already agreed (or somebody else who I ‘hate’ agreed to give him the money.

    4. Pretend I can make up the difference by ruffling my employer and getting an extra 5k on threats.

    That is all i saw

  33. 10. Are we on the road to Boston or Berlin?

    11. What is the proper sphere of the state and what of the private sector, where and how do they overlap and how is this managed?

    12. Very recent history seems to show that in a conflict of interest of the citizens and the interest of the financial markets, the markets ruled. Do you agree with state of affairs? If not, how will you work within Ireland to change this? How will you work within Europe to change this?

    13. Norway specializes in peace and reconciliation. Sweden has the Nobel prize. What do you think Ireland should stand for on the world stage?

  34. 1) When developing your manifesto did you solicite advice from economists in relation to banking, debt and jobs creation and if so can you name these individuals?

    2) In developing your proposals on electoral reform did you seek advice from any political scientists etc. if so can you name these individuals?

    3) Are you prepared to relase any documentation related to these consultations?

  35. Watching Jean-Claude Trichet’s press conferences, it’s easy to identify the day trippers from the regulars; the latter usually asks questions he is likely to answer or not give a stock reply as he does on currency rate movements.

    In a debate setting, the following would likely be a ‘day tripper’ one:

    Why are your job creation plans credible when in the period 1998-2007 – – mainly characterised by domestic and international booms – – only an average of 1,100 net jobs were added annually in Ireland, in the internationally traded/export goods and services sectors, by foreign and Irish-owned firms, according to State agency Forfás?

    More here:

    http://www.finfacts.ie/irishfinancenews/article_1021514.shtml

  36. Taking account of the fact that the EU’s contribution to the Irish bailout comes with the condition that the Irish state pay senior bank bondholders in excess of €20bn, for which it otherwise has no liability, over the next two to three years, the effective interest rate on EU funding over that period is well in excess of 50%.

    If the EU and it’s institutions cannot be persuaded to see sense on this, are you prepared to unilaterally refuse to fund unguaranteed senior bank bondholders?

  37. What is surprising is that there is no evidence of any concern that there will be civil unrest.

    The link is to a blog by a guy who has been around the block more than a few times. Foreigners who are familiar with the hard driving overseas Irish are surprised at the level of passivity that exists in Ireland.

    http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/

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