Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Irish Property Bubble - Ireland's Boom To Bust - Just Clowen' Around...

Came across a great article by Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent, on the Irish Examiner Newspaper:

"Clowning around in the doleful economic circus...

ROLL up! Roll up! Marvel at the economic circus act of the Two Brians — Mr Boom and Mr Bust! Thrill as Brian Cowen — Mr Boom — hurtles through the air powered only by the overheating property explosion!

Scream as Brian Lenihan — Mr Bust — plunges back down to earth as the housing bubble bursts violently in his face!

Quiver as the Two Brians tremble on the high wire together, desperately trying to keep their fiscal balance with no safety net blow them.

The recession started precisely four minutes late as the Taoiseach and Finance Minister delayed their entry to what, by the look on their glum little faces, could well have passed for their political funerals.

With the stock market collapsing at an even faster rate than the unemployment lines were growing, it was hardly any wonder both men looked sullen as they unveiled their mystery action plan to tackle the €3.5 billion black hole that has been blown in government revenues by deteriorating tax returns and a surge in welfare payments.

The Two Brians told us everything was going to be all right, they just did not really tell us how.

Mr Boom said we were now experiencing a “different model of growth” and who could disagree with him? In a few sharp months we have gone from Europe’s role model to Europe’s dole model. Mr Bust assured us that the country’s economic gains had “not been reversed overnight” — quite so, it had taken more than a year to get us into this particular hole.

Government payrolls were to be slashed by 3%, but neither man knew how many jobs this would entail or what the consequences for services would be. The decentralisation disaster was being put on ice, but was also not being abandoned — a neat conjuring trick in itself.

And that massive ministerial pay hike was being dumped, well until about 2010 anyway. The message was clear: we feel your pain, but only until we can get back on the gravy train.

However, amid the economic debris there was still time to settle some old scores. “We are very concerned about the ongoing costs of the tribunals,” Mr Bust announced. Of course he is, they have already cost Fianna Fáil one taoiseach, who knows what other damage they could do?

Following the depressed press conference the Two Brians shuffled into the Dáil chamber almost hand in hand, it was if the dour double act now only feels safe if it travels as one.

As they grappled their way to their seats they looked like two weary elephants linking trunk and tail as they entered the circus ring.

Luckily for them, Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny is no ring master and though he tried to lash his whip in their direction it did not leave many marks.

In an illusionist’s trick, Mr Boom again announced he would make 3% of the public service payroll disappear.

However, Mary Harney and Batt O’Keeffe were to be given the roles of knife throwers’ assistants as they dodged the blades being thrown all around the Government wage bill after being told they would escape the cuts.

As Mr Boom tried to explain away the vagaries of what he was imposing on the country, crying could be heard in the chamber — surprisingly it was not the sobbing of FF backbenchers dismayed that his Lisbon-lite leadership was again on show, but a baby being carried out of the public gallery.

Mr Boom tried to calm everybody down: “This is just a phase,” he assured us. Yes that’s right, mass unemployment, it’s just a phase, like boy bands and mopeds.

The “phase” will see Government spending cut by €440m this year and €1bn next year. As we have to make up a €3.5bn shortfall in budgets for 2008 alone, that points to an awful lot of extra borrowing, or even tax increases in the December budget.

The Finance Minister, who has the air of a man who should be sipping a stiff sherry in the law library at the Four Courts, rather than getting his hands dirty with spending cuts, looked uncomfortable in his role.

Mr Bust — Brian Scissorhands — did not seem to be looking forward to the budget as he slumped back in his chair while next to him Mr Boom appeared weighed down by the sheer scale of the collapse in economic confidence engulfing his administration.

The 19,055 people who joined the dole queues last month alone might not see the funny side of the circus as they lament: send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re already here."

...Well put Shaun!

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