Sunday, March 8, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG update

Economic recovery creates room for income tax cuts, says Tánaiste Burton


Revenue growth to enable long-term investment in education and road network. 

The Tánaiste Joan Burton has said the recovery in the public finances means the Government can now make plans to long-term investment in education and roads in addition to mooted income tax concessions.
After new exchequer figures showed a big increase in tax returns last month, Ms Burton said other indicators pointed to a nascent recovery in consumer sentiment and improved prospects for the tourism industry.
“Without a doubt there is a surge in consumer confidence,” she said. “For everybody who has been at work – taken tax hikes, taken pay cuts – it’s possible now to see a route to restoration.”
The Tánaiste was speaking to The Irish Times before the release on Wednesday of fresh live register figures, which are set to put the February unemployment rate just above 10 per cent as people return to work.
A new set of exchequer returns showed the State collected €6.74 billion in tax in January and February, €925 million more than in 2014 and €345 million ahead of the target set in the October budget.
Figures distorted
While the figures showed the exchequer deficit declined to €205 million at the end of February from €1.68 billion a year ago, the 2014 figures were distorted by once-off changes last year to Europe’s payment systems.
Conall MacCoille, economist at Davy stockbrokers, said the returns provided tentative evidence to suggest the Government could beat its target for a budget deficit this year of 2.7 per cent of gross domestic product.
“Tax revenues are beating budget forecasts by a wide margin across a broad range of categories and spending discipline is being maintained,” he said.
Although Ms Burton emphasised that caution was required in the assessment of returns for only the opening two months of the year, she said it was now clear the economy was poised for growth.
As the Coalition prepares to set a future course for the State in its “spring economic statement” due next month, she said the continued recovery in the public finances and other positive indicators suggested resources would be available to tackle the deficit in Ireland’s public infrastructure.
“The figures tell the story about where the Irish economy is now and where we hope it is moving to,” she said an interview.
Capital infrastructure
“We would like a resource becoming available for critical capital infrastructure. We need, for instance, to upskill our workforce because that’s the route to well-paid employment. We need to invest and continue to invest in education at all levels, particularly in third level,” she added.
“We need for instance in some areas to finish our road transport network: just let’s say Limerick to Cork, Limerick to Tralee and Killarney, and to finish the route to Rosslare.”
In addition,the improvement in the public finances would secure the funding required to invest some €4 billion in social housing in the next five years .
Citing agreements with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to reform the universal social charge, raise the entry point for the higher income tax rate and look at tax rates, she said the Government was on course to deliver further concessions in the next budget.
“All of that means that people in work should be able to get in next year’s budget if things continue to go well a little bit more tax relief,” said Ms Burton.

Irish taxman takes almost €20m from 128 under compliance medical consultants 


The Irish Revenue Commissioners have collected almost €20m as part of a long-running investigation into the earnings of medical consultants.

The probe was launched amid concerns that certain consultants were not declaring their full private incomes for tax reasons.
Revenue has set up a system with the HSE to differentiate between consultants’ public and private incomes.
According to information supplied to Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath, the incomes of 331 consultants have been scrutinised.
Around 128 of these cases have been concluded, a Revenue spokesperson said, resulting in almost €20m being collected.
According to the figures, the average settlement is around €150,000.
“I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are engaged in an ongoing programme of compliance work in relation to medical consultants.
“Revenue’s main focus at this time in the context of this programme is the tax issues arising from the incorporation of medical consultants businesses,” said a parliamentary response from Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
“To date, Revenue has opened a total of 331 compliance interventions.
The investigations that have been concluded have resulted in the collection of €19,199,325 in tax, late payment interest charges and penalties, he added.
Revenue contacted the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) last year and informed it that its members may be subject to audits.
The body has said that each consultant has individual tax arrangements and therefore they should consult their accountants to ensure that they are tax compliant.
Mr McGrath, a TD for Cork South Central, last night described the figures as “extraordinary”, adding that the final sum could be significantly higher.
“With a further 200 cases still live, the overall amount being recouped from medical consultants could well be in region of €50m.
“It seems to me that many are being very badly advised by professional advisers in terms of how they are setting up and operating private structures.”
Mr McGrath said he believes the matter should be examined by the HSE and Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
“Every individual citizen has an obligation to be tax compliant,” he added.

One in five (20%) of wives in Ireland keep secret ‘run away’ accounts?


Almost one in five (20%) of women in Ireland keep secret bank accounts unknown to their husbands, a survey has revealed.

Fewer men stash money in secret accounts, with one in 12 husbands confessing to having accounts their wives have not seen.
The prevalence of partners having secret “running away” money was revealed in a Love and Money survey published by savings group RaboDirect.
Most couples (75%) said, however, that they work well together when it comes to planning budgets and managing money. However, full disclosure about money is a hurdle for some couples to overcome.
An overwhelming 78% felt it was important to know everything about their partner’s finances, a figure that rises to almost nine out of 10 women (89%).
Yet fewer men (62%) than women (79%) actually believe they know everything about their partner’s finances.
“For those who find talking about finances tricky, it helps to see yourselves as a team working together,” said psychologist Niamh Hannan.
“By keeping calm and focusing on the goals you wish to achieve you’re much more likely to reach agreement.”

A heart attack recovery relies on a positive mental attitude


The most positive patients are less likely to suffer another heart attack

People who have suffered a heart attack are much more likely to experience a healthy recovery if they have an optimistic attitude, new research has shown.

The study found that the most positive patients are half as likely to suffer another heart attack, require surgery or die in the four years after a heart attack, than those who displayed the most pessimistic attitude.
While a link between an optimistic outlook on life and better heart health is well-established, the impact of a patient’s attitude after suffering a heart attack or other serious cardiovascular problem was not known until now.
A number of factors could like behind the link, said experts from University College London (UCL) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which backed the study. More optimistic patients were less likely to persist with unhealthy behaviours like smoking, and more likely to adopt healthier diets.
UCL’s Professor Andrew Steptoe, who led the study said: “Optimistic people are more likely to take advice about lifestyle changes on board. This results in better outcomes after a patient suffers from unstable angina or a heart attack.
“Our findings could be used to identify pessimistic patients and encourage them to make the necessary changes to their lifestyle that can ultimately lead to better health.”
The study, which looked at 369 patients, followed up over four years, is published in the journal Psychomatic Medicine.
Patients were asked to take part in questionnaires that assigned them an optimism score based on how strongly they agreed with statements such as: “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.”
It found that half of the most pessimistic patients were still smoking one year after a heart attack,  compared to 85% of the most optimistic group, who had quit entirely one year on.
Similarly, 40% of the most optimistic patients were eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day after one year, compared to only 20% in the most pessimistic group.
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the BHF, said that the next step would be to prove that psychological support could improve the chances of more pessimistic patients having a good recovery.
“Suffering from a serious condition like angina or heart attack can take a drastic emotional toll, which we know can lead to depression, further lowering the chances of a full recovery after a heart attack,” he said. “If you’re living with a heart condition and struggling to cope, we would urge you to contact your GP who can put you in touch with the necessary support.”

NUI Galway students win vote for the legalisation of cannabis


Nearly 1,800 votes supported the motion, while 838 were against

Some 68% of votes were in favour of the legalisation, cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for adults.
Students at NUI Galway (NUIG) have called on other universities to vote on legalising cannabis use for adults, following their referendum in favour of such a move this week.
Some 68 per cent of votes cast on the issue in NUIG supported legalisation and regulation of the of the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for adults age 18 and over.
A total of 1,796 votes approved of the motion, while 838 votes were against. The university has over 17,000 registered students.
Ciarán Maher, spokesman for the NUIG Students forSensible Drug Policy Society, said the outcome meant that the legalisation would be adopted as students’ union policy.
His society, along with NUIG’s Sinn Féin cumann, theNUIG Misneach Society and the NUIG Socialist Society had united to call for a “Yes” vote, and it was endorsed by North and West MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan at a debate on campus last week.
Garda whistleblower John Wilson, who was also invited to speak, called for a rational, mature” debate on legalising cannabis in Ireland, given its widespread use.
Regulation of cannabis without the harmful psychoactive compound linked to schizophrenia and other illnesses could ensure that thousands of people currently using the substance avoided criminal conviction, Mr Wilson said.
NUIG professor of pharmacology Prof David Finn, who is director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre, said that he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the student vote, as it probably reflected the opinion of the majority of young people in Ireland.
However, Prof Finn said he would urge some caution around “full, uncontrolled” legalisation of cannabis, while also believing it needed to be “decriminalised”.
He said his concerns related to the amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, in cannabis, as “the higher the content, the riskier it is”.
THC is the chemical responsible for most of the drug’s psychological effects, and use of cannabis by young people with developing brains could lead to psychosis or other psychological disorders, he said.
“If alcohol or tobacco were discovered today, we would probably ban them, and there are schedule A drugs such as heroin which are far riskier than cannabis,”Prof Finn said.
“Regulation to ensure young people do not have access to cannabis, and regulation to ensure the safest type is used, is key,”he said.
University College Dublin’s (UCD) students’ union council voted against the legalisaton of cannabis in late January. Spokesman Brian Maher said that the UCD students’ union had “no plans” to hold a full referendum, but students were always entitled to do so and any conversation was “welcome”.
Regulations to enable authorised cannabis-based medicinal products to be legally prescribed by medical practitioners, and used by patients, were signed into law on July 11th last year.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority granted a marketing authorisation for cannabis based medicinal product Sativex to be marketed in Ireland for treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms.
However,reimbursement under the community drugs scheme is still the subject of a Health Service Executive assessment, according to the Department of Health.?”

‘Man-Made’ climate change is a major problem for women


Men and women may not always be on the same footing but you would think both sexes would be equal in the face of gigantic floods, typhoons or droughts. Think again.

Countless studies show that natural disasters on average kill more women than men — 90% female fatalities in some cases prevent girls from going to school, increase the threat of sexual assault. And the list goes on.
This issue has leaped to the fore in global negotiations on climate change, which scientists warn will be responsible for increasingly violent and frequent natural catastrophes around the world.
“It boils down to the fact that women and men have different types of vulnerabilities already in the world,” said Tara Shine, special advisor to the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice think tank, headed by the former Irish president-turned U.N. special envoy for climate change.
“And then climate change comes along and accentuates all of those,” she added on the sidelines of the ongoing U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the issue of climate change and rights was debated.
According to the World Bank, 90% of some 140,000 victims of the 1991 cyclone that battered Bangladesh were women, as were nearly two thirds of those killed by Myanmar’s 2008 Cyclone Nargis.
“There are many reasons but one of them is that they cannot swim, they cannot climb trees, it’s cultural,” said Elena Manaenkova, assistant secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“In many countries — and it’s also cultural — they are not supposed to run, they are supposed to wait until their husband will call them to action.”
One of the WMO’s objectives is to reach out to people in disaster-prone areas with forecasts that could save their lives or livelihoods, for which mobile phones are an important tool.
But according to Manaenkova, 300 million fewer women have mobile phones than men, which means warnings often do not reach them.
Beyond this, women and girls are also impacted by climate change in their everyday lives — education being a prime example.
In many parts of the developing world, for instance, they are the ones who fetch water for their families, and as global warming impacts the availability of fresh water sources, they have to trek farther afield to find them — meaning less time for school.
According to the United Nations Development Program, a survey conducted in Tanzania found girls’ attendance to be 12% higher for those in homes located near a water source than in homes one hour or more away.
Attendance rates for boys appeared to be far less affected.
Plan International conducted extensive research on the subject in 2010 in drought-ridden Ethiopia and flood-prone Bangladesh, and found the long walks were also dangerous.
“I know two girls who were raped going to fetch water. When you go far and there are not many people around, it happens,” Endager, a 16-year-old girl from Lasta district in Ethiopia, was quoted as saying in the NGO’s report.
Poverty-inducing natural disasters can also increase the propensity for child marriage.
“After cyclones, families think their condition is worse and send their daughters to get married,” a young girl from Barguna in Bangladesh was quoted as saying.
“Almost 50% of girls drop out of education because of early marriage. In very remote villages, it is probably more 70 to 75%.”
So what can be done? Simple, experts say — empower women, get them involved at all levels, and remember that they exist.
According to Shine, the issue is expected to feature prominently in a crucial new agreement aimed at averting catastrophic global warming to be signed in Paris later this year.
Some countries — such as Mozambique — are already factoring gender into their response to climate change, she says.
“When it (Mozambique) is increasing the resilience of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods to the impact of climate change, it doesn’t forget the majority of its smallholder farmers are women,” she said.
“It therefore has to tailor the supports, advice and technologies that it makes available to them to be appropriate to their needs and to ask them what they want.”
Other concrete measures include making sure typhoon shelters have separate female and male toilets, so women will feel safe and go there during a storm.
“It’s often such obvious stuff but if the people responsible for it aren’t a little bit aware that there are gender differences…, with all the good intention in the world, they can end up doing something that has a negative effect,” said Shine   

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