Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Data issued by the Department of Finance in December in response to a parliamentary question:
All income earners for Income Tax Year 2015 (provisional)
|Range of Gross Income - €||Number of Income Earners|
|0 to 9,000||368,585|
|9,001 to 12,000||107,297|
|12,001 to 15,000||116,836|
|15,001 to 20,000||213,112|
|20,001 to 25,000||216,626|
|25,001 to 30,000||201,085|
|30,001 to 40,000||324,506|
|40,001 to 50,000||229,709|
|50,001 to 60,000||157,805|
|60,001 to 70,000||107,045|
|70,001 to 80,000||77,378|
|80,001 to 100,000||91,301|
|100,001 to 120,000||47,956|
|120,001 to 150,000||34,809|
|150,001 to 200,000||22,512|
Monday, November 10, 2014
In the Interview - Former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher looks back on the road to German unity. Who threw up barriers? And who helped things along? Germany's former foreign minister recalls the days when Berlin was making world history and assesses what has been achieved since for Germany and Europe.
November 9th 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - a happy date in German history. But many of the country’s neighbors were against the idea of a reunited Germany back then, worried that it would once again seek to dominate Europe. What role should and can Germany now play in both Europe and the rest of the world?
Berlin has changed considerably since the fall of the Wall. But traces of the 160-kilometer-long border that once divided East and West Berlin can be found at the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery - and elsewhere, too!
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
The psychologist and word-usage expert has produced a new style guide with cognitive sensibilities called "The Sense of Style."
Steven Pinker, a Harvard University professor, in the book 'The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century' according to The Economist steers:
writers towards a “classic style”, in which the writer clearly points out things that may have escaped the reader’s notice, but which anyone can understand with patient guidance. Classic style uses concrete words in straightforward sentences easily parsed by man’s limited brain. Bad writing, exemplified by academese, bureaucratese and bewildering gadget manuals, does the opposite. Sentences are long, filled with abstract words, and make sense only to those who already know most of the information. (Mr Pinker admits that he struggles daily with papers in his own academic field.)
Why, psychologically, is bad writing bad? Working memory, which holds syntactic constructions in mind until they are complete, is easily overwhelmed. Mr Pinker uses memorable (and often funny) examples to show exactly what kind of sentences tax the mind. For example, violating expectations, such as upsetting chronological order, makes the reader do extra work. (When financial journalists say that an equity fell to $76 from $110, they invite confusion.) And the much-derided passive voice can make a passage flow more smoothly by preserving the ideal order of old information, then new.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
The Economist says one reason China’s spectacular rise sometimes alarms its
neighbours is that it is not a status quo power. From its inland, western
borders to its eastern and southern seaboard, it claims territory it does not
In the west, China’s border dispute with India is more than a minor cartographic tiff. China claims an area of India that is three times the size of Switzerland, the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Further west, China occupies Indian claimed territory next to Ladakh in Kashmir, an area called the Aksai Chin. China humiliated India in a brief, bloody war over the dispute in 1962. Since 1988, the two countries have put the dispute on the backburner and got on with developing commercial ties, despite occasional flare-ups.
More immediately dangerous is the stand-off between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in Chinese.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
FT leader writer James Blitz and East Europe editor Neil Buckley discuss what Russian president Vladimir Putin and western leaders will do next after a Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in eastern Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives.
Monday, June 02, 2014
Google says: "Fully autonomous driving has always been the goal of our
project, because we think this could improve road safety and help lots of people
who can't drive.
We're now developing prototypes of vehicles that have been designed from the ground up to drive themselves—just push a button and they'll take you where you want to go! We'll use these vehicles to test our software and learn what it will really take to bring this technology into the world."
Google hopes that by this time next year, 100 of its driverless two-seaters will be on public roads, following extensive testing. The cars would not be for sale and instead would be provided to select operators for further tweaking and have limitations such as a 40-kilometre-per-hour top speed.
Source: The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.
*Rates are from 2013 for all countries with the exception of Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, which are from 2012; and Canada, which is from 2011–12. The rate for Britain is a weighted average of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The New York Times says that despite a recent dip, the incarceration rate in the United States has almost quadrupled since the 1960s. The US now has far more people in prison as a share of its population than any other developed country and partly reflects the failed 'War on Drugs' which has criminalised a generation of young men.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Before he set out on a rampage through the California seaside college town of Isla Vista on May 23, that ended with seven dead and 13 injured, suspected gunman Elliot Rodger (22) calmly laid out his plans online and said he was a virgin as girls had rejected him.
The video was posted on Youtube but was later removed.
The Wall Street Journal reports that investigators said Rodger was found dead in his vehicle with three handguns—two Sig Sauer 226 and a Glock 34, all purchased legally in California and registered to the suspect.
The Journal said Elliot Rodger, a Rodger family spokesman said Saturday, had a difficult time making friends. He had been diagnosed as a "high functioning Asperger's child" earlier in life, and was being treated by many mental health professionals, said Alan Shifman, a lawyer for Peter Rodger, the father of Elliot Rodger. Peter Rodger is a Hollywood director who worked as an assistant director on "The Hunger Games."
Monday, May 19, 2014
Colin Fan, co-head of Deutsche Bank’s investment bank, has warned traders in an internal video that being ‘boastful, indiscreet and vulgar’ will have ‘serious consequences’. Andrew Hill, FT management editor, tells Daniel Garrahan why he’s a fan of Mr Fan.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Days after Ireland shocked Europe on September 30, 2008, with a blanket guarantee of Ireland's bank deposits and debts, Patrick Neary, the financial regulator, was interviewed on Irish television but he may as well have been regulator of banking in Freedonia:
The trial of former executives of Anglo Irish Bank on the issue of the bank supporting the share price through an illegal scheme, wouldn't have occurred but for the collapse of the Irish banking system.
In contrast with a case like Guinness plc in the UK in the 1980s, where company funds were used to boost the share price during a takeover battle, here we had the Central Bank of Ireland in the information loop on the efforts to prevent a rerun of the Northern Rock bank collapse situation when it became known in September 2007 that Seán Quinn, a then billionaire, had built up in the period 2006/07 a secret CFD (contracts for difference) holding of more than a quarter of the shares in Anglo Irish Bank.
When Seán FitzPatrick and David Drumm, Anglo’s chairman and chief executive, discovered in September 2007, that Quinn had then a 24% stake in Anglo through contracts for difference (CFDs), they told the bank's board and Drumm was instructed to inform Patrick Neary, the financial regulator.
Neary told the trial that at a meeting that month, he didn't ask Drumm what was Quinn's stake nor did Drumm tell him. In early 2008 when Seán Quinn visited Neary's office at the Central Bank, Neary told the trial that he didn’t think it would be “fair or appropriate” to have asked about the stake that Quinn had in the bank.
Neary had also told the trial that after meeting with Drumm, a colleague had given him a document explaining CFDs.
This could evoke the Marx Brothers' 'Duck Soup' (1933) but the 'Nightmare on Dame Street' drama was set in a Trappist monastery.
One of the most striking illustrations of the dysfunctional nature of the office of the financial regulator, was that for most of 2008 Patrick Neary was unaware of the discovery by his staff, that Irish Nationwide Building Society had provided loans of up to €122 million to Anglo Irish Bank's Seán Fitzpatrick, over an eight-year period, enabling him to move his director loans at Anglo Irish, off the bank’s books at each September 30th year end, to avoid disclosing them publicly. What amount would have triggered some office gossip or a whisper in a pub?
Ruadhán Mac Cormaic of The Irish Times has reported that in two days in the witness box, Neary said “I don’t recall” 30 times, “I don’t know” 23 times, “I can’t recall” 12 times, “I can’t/don’t/cannot remember” 12 times, “That’s a complete blank to me” once, and “I’ve absolutely no recollection” four times.
Neary had also told the trial that Con Horan, his prudential director, had not informed him of a first attempt to unwind Quinn's CFDs in March 2008.
Besides the three defendants, how many others were involved in devising the support scheme even though they were working on the basis of legal advice that the Maple 10 arrangement was in compliance with the Companies Act 1963?
1. So while Seán FitzPatrick should have been expected to know more than his other non-executive colleagues on the board about the risks of this transaction, at least two of them were chiefs of listed companies while another was the former chief of a Big 4 accounting firm.
The jury made the right call in acquitting FitzPatrick.
2. Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan, were found guilty of implementing the illegal scheme by a Dublin court on Friday.
The scheme was devised by many more and apart from the financial regulator, the senior management of the Central Bank and some officials in the Department of Finance were likely aware of it.
Anglo had also been advised by one of Dublin's biggest law firms that the arrangement was compliant with the Companies Act - while that does not make what's illegal legal, coupled with the tacit or overt imprimatur of the Central Bank, in the ordinary course of business, all that is usually sufficient for business executives who are not legal specialists.
I used to have a copy of the Companies Act 1963 and while there are for example clear cases where companies engage in fraudulent trading when a company is close to collapse, there are others in hindsight where the directors should have called in a receiver earlier but last ditch attempts to rescue the firm that drained the more funds, were fruitless.
I have worked in a company of several hundred people that had some good contracts but it had cash flow problems and was awaiting an outside investment to stave off collapse.
Staff soon realise that there are serious problems and people with fear in their eyes anxiously search for some reassurance when there maybe none.
It must have been a similar atmosphere for non-executive staff within the bank.
Making a judgement on the share support scheme and the overall management of the bank during the property bubble, are different issues.
3. It's well to remember that there is no new dawn as compliance with company and tax laws will continue to be a much bigger risk area for Irish-owned firms and directors than for foreign-owned multinationals.
The Big 4 accounting firms are active in selling tax avoidance/ evasion shelters not only in the corporate tax area but in also cutting VAT for example [pdf].
Usually when abuse schemes are discovered by revenue authorities, a deal can be agreed.
In the past decade, there was a rare case in the US where a criminal prosecution was launched and KPMG LLP admitted to "criminal wrongdoing" and individual staff were targeted.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement: “In the largest criminal tax case ever filed, KPMG has admitted that it engaged in a fraud that generated at least $11 billion dollars in phony tax losses … cost the United States at least $2.5 billion dollars in evaded taxes.… KPMG also admitted that its personnel took specific deliberate steps to conceal the existence of the shelters from the IRS."
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The Financial Times reports that drought, disease and rising demand have led to prices of eight key breakfast commodities rising on average almost 25% this year, fuelling consumer fears of food inflation.
Coffee has soared more than 70% because of unseasonably dry weather in Brazil, while US pigs have been hit by a virus epidemic, leading to a more than 40% rally in Chicago pork prices.
The Wall Street Journal
says that in the U.S., much of the rise in the food cost comes from higher
meat and dairy prices, due in part to tight cattle supplies after years of
drought in states such as Texas and California and rising milk demand from
fast-growing Asian countries. But prices also are higher for fruits, vegetables,
sugar and beverages, according to government data. In futures markets, coffee
prices have soared so far this year more than 70%, hogs are up 42% on disease
concerns and cocoa has climbed 12% on rising demand, particularly from emerging
Drought in Brazil, the world's largest producer of coffee, sugar and oranges, has increased coffee prices, while dry weather in Southeast Asia has boosted prices for cooking oils such as palm oil.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
In the space of a few weeks, Stephen Collins, political editor of The Irish Times, in an economic commentary, swings from 'Bailout myth is a cocktail of half-truths and downright evasions - Wide acceptance of an unreliable narrative about what happened means we may never get to grips with the actual facts' to 'Kenny’s track record could land him a key EU position.'
It is however interesting that Enda Kenny (taoiseach/ prime minister since 2011) would be a suitable candidate for the largely ceremonial role of European Council president rather than the presidency of the Commission which has a key role in EU policy making - - one that could be well filled by Christine Lagarde of the IMF.
Kenny's optimism has been a positive thing, in particular when compared with his immediate predecessor but it's nonsense to claim he has had a big impact on investment inflows -- most of which come from the existing investment base (do not be misled by American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland spin on the issue.)
Besides, the charm did not get far when it was claimed that there had been an agreement at the June 2012 EU summit that Ireland would get a refund of the State's €64bn spending on rescuing Irish banks - - the curious thing about the claim is that it's still unknown which leader if any had made such a promise.
It's easy to forget that Bertie Ahern (taoiseach/ prime minister 1997-2008) lauded by journalists for his 'common touch' once radiated optimism, but what he shared with Kenny was a lack of interest in the boring but crucial issue of reforming failed systems of governance.
At the MacGill Summer School in July 2009, Enda Kenny, then leader of the
Opposition, asked why do we have a budgetary system in place that is unfit to
run a corner-shop, let alone a nation of 4m people?
In July 2013, the IMF said on Irish government accounting, that there is no uniform set of accounting rules and procedures applying to government departments, extra-budgetary funds, semi-state bodies, local governments, and public corporations. "This makes consolidating government-wide financial information and promoting system-wide improvements in financial reporting practices very costly and time consuming."
The bailout terms were met but in terms of preparing for a world of different economic challenges, has there been change remotely comparable with what was done in Sweden and Finland in the aftermath of their crises in the early 1990s?
Wouldn't it be a shock if we had a society where workers have equal rights whether in the public or private sectors, including similar pension entitlements (the majority of private sector workers do not even have an occupational pension)?
Leo Tolstoy wrote in 'War and Peace' of the Battle of Borodino in 1812:
"it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going on before him... Napoleon fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity."
However, a weakened Russian Army was allowed to escape and regroup.
Rather than Kenny's charm offensive, the vacuous 'Medium-Term Economic Strategy 2014-2020' that was published last December is a better pointer to the ultimate judgement on his leadership.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Click on image to enlarge
WhatsApp is an excellent facility, which took advantage of the surging market for smartphones -- basically adding mobility to the desktop instant messenger systems that had been available for years.
Facebook is more likely to boost usage of WhatsApp rather than vice-versa.
In 2011, Microsoft paid $8.5bn for Skype - - 32 times operating profit -- and last year with a claimed 300m users, it was estimated that it accounted for one-third of world telephone traffic. Impressive? In 2010, it was reported that 6% of users pay.
What value is Skye to Microsoft now or Google Voice to Google?
The focus on user growth is reminiscent of the 'land grab' hype of the dot-com bubble but why should Twitter be expected to have the same usage growth rate as Facebook - - apart from ridiculous market valuations -- as they mainly operate in different online market segments?
The critical issue for the big name online services is ARPU (average revenue per user) per annum.
Facebook's average revenue per user (ARPU) worldwide accelerated to +39% at $2.14 in the fourth quarter of 2013, and ARPU in the U.S. was up 48% at $6.03.
The key challenge for Facebook is that Google with a similar user base of over a billion, can get $30 per user per annum from search advertising.
In Asia, Facebook's ARPU was $0.95 in Q4.
I was in China last week, where the online sector is doing very well.
Twitter and Facebook are blocked while Google's search is available from Hong Kong but it's a hassle to use as it's not clear what sites are blocked before clicking.
Nomura of Japan estimates that China's WeChat’s average revenue per user is $7, compared to WhatsApp’s average revenue of $1.
Late last week Japanese online retailer Rakuten announced a deal to buy Viber for $900m for 105m users.
Chinese online services are the only ones that can rival the American online leaders - - while the latter try to avoid paying corporate taxes in most of their overseas markets.
So in Asia, the most populous region, there are not easy pickings for the US giants.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Euro Topics reports that it emerged last week that employees of a power company had manipulated around ten percent of all electricity meters in Malta to the benefit of consumers.
The extent of the fraud puts the entire country in a bad light, the liberal-conservative daily The Malta Independent believes:
The one thing that beggars belief in the smart meter tampering scandal is that more people are suspected of rigging the system in Malta, than in the whole of the United States in one year. ... But what is it? Is it the shady side of our Mediterranean character, or what? Is corruption so institutionalised that it is in our blood? Maybe it is something that has gone back years and years, to times when the only way to actually get anything done was to grease someone's palm."
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
SEE Finfacts article: Irish journalists get cash payouts over 'homophobic' defamation claim
Lolek Ltd t/a Iona Institute had a cash balance of €186,000 at end of 2007 rising to €231,000 at end 2010, €278,000 in 2011 and €325,000 at end 2012.
It's a significant balance for a tiny 'charity' but no information is available on the sources of the annual revenue of over €200,000.
Would some of the cash be sourced from the US? Should we know?
This is relevant as in the US, not only would lobby groups against gay rights not be able to sue over being termed 'homophobic' because of saner defamation laws, it would be a badge of honour to some of them.
The Family Research Council, which gets a lot of attention from Republican Party presidential aspirants, published a pamphlet on gay marriage, citing a case where a Missouri man wanted to marry a horse.
Then there's Legatus, an organisation for wealthy Catholic businessmen, which is suing the US government over Obama's Affordable Care Act, as it's apparently an attack on Catholics.
This is a 2011 article on the Legatus site from the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center ( https://www.ncbcenter.org/ ), that in modern times uses archaic terminology, which in the past was used to stigmatise gay people.
There are many reasons why people suffer from SSA (same sex attraction) disorder. Some “discover” this tendency within them. Others grow into it through pursuits of pleasure or experimentation. Some use it to punish themselves or others. Whether the disorder has some deep, unknown roots over which one has virtually no control, or whether it’s a developed disorder resulting from bad choices, it leaves an individual disposed toward activities and a lifestyle that are dangerous — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Fortunately there is hope for those who suffer from the disorder. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality reports that significant numbers of homosexual persons have undergone treatment and had their sexual drives properly ordered. These findings are a beacon of hope to those suffering from SSA, as well as for their family and friends who desire their happiness and good health."
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association
declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
Since 1975, the American Psychological Association "has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay and bisexual orientations."
Given the post-independence system of censorship and British-inspired defamation laws that protected political, religious and business leaders from scrutiny and accountability over past decades, it's an odd modern society where journalists would consider legal action over this issue.
Let us applaud dissenters as societies have only progressed when the smug and often intolerant status quo was challenged.
In 1863, the year of emancipation, the Irish rioted in New York against an unfair Union Army draft lottery. Democratic Party officials had warned of an influx of freed black slaves from the South and on July 13 an Irish mob attacked a black orphanage in the city that housed more than 200 children. The mob burned the building after looting it and then began attacking and lynching blacks.
A century later, Martin Luther King could say that "the Negro...finds himself an exile in his own land."
Wonder what it was like to be both black and gay in the US a half century ago?
Thomas Jefferson, a cruel slave master, had penned the line in the 1776 Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."
At his second inaugural, Barack Obama linked equality and fights for civil rights for women, blacks and gays together, spanning 121 years.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall..."
American writer James Baldwin (1924-1987) left racist White America for
France in the late 1940's and returned in 1957 as the civil rights movement was
gaining strength. He took an active part in it but he was a victim of another
prejudice that did not have colour boundaries.
Baldwin was both black and gay and he was rejected as a speaker at the renowned civil rights march in Washington D.C. in 1963 when Martin Luther King delivered his 'I have a dream' speech.
Friday, January 31, 2014
This is a response to a post by Hugh Sheehy on an Irish Economy thread. The system appears to have some gremlins at work.
This is the issue that has been raised: Irish academics get lavish pension top-ups as private pensions struggle
@ Hugh Sheehy
Thanks for the link.
I had written about this issue of top-ups in 2010 when the National Pensions Reserve Fund had taken responsibility for the 'old' university pensions that had a deficit of more than €600m, and it's not surprising that some of the supporting cast on the insider stage would try and drown out dissent.
This is a graphic illustration of the Irish caste system.
While profitable overseas companies and the small number of indigenous ones were shutting down defined benefit (guaranteed payout) systems; the finance minister was levying private pension funds; the social protection minister did not know what to do with a report from PwC, the Big 4 accounting firm, that showed fees ate up an average of 17% of a fund over a typical fund's time horizon (Enda Kenny had promised Shane Ross that he would have the issue investigated when the levy was introduced in 2011 -- Kenny is not Bill Clinton and with 3 public pensions, even it had later crossed his mind, it would have been hard to convince the typical SME worker that he feel's their pain) -- over 500 academics in the bankrupt country were getting pension top-ups.
The basis for these top-ups is dodgy and the Comptroller & Auditor General said in 2011 that the issue required investigation.
The property clause in the Constitution is usually worth a try.
However, the right of 'legitimate de facto expectation' as outlined by a university official to the C&AG a years ago is similar to the 'droit du seigneur' in that only people within an elite could claim it.
Why worry about inequality when it's found mostly in places with funny names?
It's official state policy to keep employer social security low and thus the low level of employee pensions in the private sector.
Note the contrast with the racket organised by the insiders and when Brian Cowen at the outset of the Croke Park process proposed that the link with a current incumbent's earnings be replaced by consumer prices, the unions said it would be a dealbreaker.
Why are bankers so selfish?
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Calls are growing for high sugar drinks to be taxed in the same way as cigarettes to curb rising obesity. Does the drinks industry's resistance echo that of the tobacco industry denial in the 1960s? BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman spoke to James Quincey, president of Coca Cola Europe.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Financial Times editor Lionel Barber previews the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He tells economics editor Chris Giles that growing business confidence, Middle East instability, inequality and the impact of technology will top the agenda: