Using semi-states as a driver for economic recovery
The Government has committed itself to raising at least €2 billion from the sale of state assets. While they have tried to convince the public that the EU and IMF have demanded this measure, the Memorandum of Understanding does not explicitly call for privatization of assets or mention any amount to be raised. The privatisation agenda is a Fine Gael and Labour agenda.
The Government has learned nothing from the past. Eircom tells an important story. The state communications company was worth €8.4 billion at the time of its privatisation but by 2011 had a net value of just €39 million. Ireland is a small open economy. State control of strategic assets such as public transport, aviation,ports, forestry, water supply, broadcasting, postal services, energy supply, and telecommunications is central to the future security and prosperity of the economy and society, as well as environmental protection of the island.
Since its foundation in 1927 the ESB has played a strategic role in the economic development of the state and has delivered a first world electricity network. The company has paid €4.3 billion euro to the state in taxes and dividends over the last ten years and created tens of thousands of skilled full time jobs for generations of workers. Private interests will change this.
Again, we just have to look at the Eircom experience. Download speeds available in Ireland remain below the fastest speeds available to customers in other OECD countries. In Ireland 0.6percent of total broadband connections are fibre connections. This compares to 11.3 percent of subscribers on average in OECD-28 countries. While progress is being made in improving the cost and availability of basic broadband, Ireland is lagging at least 3 to 5 years behind competitor countries in terms of rolling out infrastructure capable of high speed next generation broadband.
Job Creation, Training, Tackling Unemployment
Commercial semi-state companies can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training. Following the collapse of the housing market ESB Networks agreed a programme of on-the-job training with FÁS to take on 400 redundant electrical apprentices who have been left unable to complete their craft qualifications. It is exactly this kind of intervention that can assist the state in rebuilding the economy, creating employment and a skills base fit for the 21st century. The energy sector also has the potential and capacity to use its expertise and reputation to fund smart metering technology resulting in more jobs, reduced emissions and lower utility bills.
Financial Return to the State –Top 4 – Over the last ten years
- Sinn Féin wants to see the replacement of New Era with a Semi-State Strategy Group. This group would include CEOs from the semi states working directly with the Ministers for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Social Protection and Education and Skills. The group would report directly to An Taoiseach and would be responsible for delivering a strategic job creation and training project.
- All annual dividends paid to the state by commercial semi-state companies must be reinvested into employment activation and training measures as identified by the Semi-State Strategy Group and signed off on by An Taoiseach.
- Cap all CEO pay at €100,000, saving €3 million
(figures included in spending savings).
- Reduce the cost of energy bills by running a cost efficiency drive in the energy providers and redirecting the savings.