A Foreigner in Ireland - A view on Politics and Life.

Minister of Finance’s “Me Me Me Me!” at Budget Speech

On Tuesday the Budget 2018 was announced by the Minister of Finance Paschal Donohoe. He was talking for about 1 hour about the state of the country, the future of the economy and about all the changes that 2018 will bring regarding taxes, charges, social welfare, minimum salary, subsidies etc.

It wasn’t an exciting speech and it is certainly not an exciting budget and since most aspects were already “leaked” beforehand, there were very very few surprises. As it seems, everybody will get a bit more money, but it is a tiny amount of money so no big parties!

Richard Boyd Barrett from People Before Profit is not someone I usually agree with, but in this case he was spot on. He said “This is a budget of crumbs.”

The only thing that got my blood boiling, but I will write about that another time, is the nonsensical sugar tax that will be introduced in April 2018.

Today, though, I want to point out another odd thing. Why is it that all Finance Ministers suffer from an ego-syndrome when they announce the budget. The current minister is not the first one that constantly talked about “I will….”, “I have decided…”, “I am increasing…”, “I am allocating….”, “I am providing….”. What is this nonsense?

No Minister of Finance makes these decisions on his own. He needs to agree them with the Taoiseach, other ministers, coalition partners and in the current government even with the Fianna Fail opposition and before all that, the whole work was done not by the Minister but the employees in his department. So would a “we” not be more appropriate than the constant “I, i, i,….” or “me, me, me, me” focus?

Politicians are odd animals anyway and nearly all are power hungry beasts, but the budget speech is a special ego trip every year, it seems.

I know you will not click on this link. ;-) But in case you want to read the whole speech, you will find it here.


Crazy Car Insurance Prices! Why?

A Chinese friend who is living in Ireland for many years never had a drivers licence here, but this year he has decided that now is the time to tackle it. His daughter is getting to the age where he can’t pack her on the back of his bike to bring her to school and a “taxi driver” is needed. ;-)

He studied HARD, passed his theory test and got his provisional license. He found a small car that suited him, I think it is a Ford Fiesta and then he embarked on finding an affordable insurance.

He was shocked! The first insurance company quoted him a price close to EUR 5,000! :-O He rang lots more and was constantly told that his insurance premium was so high because he didn’t have any experience. He understands that, but unless the companies allow him to drive (and an somewhat affordable insurance is needed for that) he won’t be able to improve. Tricky situation! In the end he found an insurance that “only” wanted EUR 3,500 and he went for it. So from now on, he will be working close to two months every year, just to pay the insurance. He can’t understand that.

During the week something happened that will help him to understand a little bit better: A passenger in a car got severely injured and sued the driver who drove the car she was in. The case was settled for EUR 5.75 million and THAT is one of the reasons why the insurance premiums are so high.

Unfortunately this case is not one of these “crazy settlement” cases and I say “unfortunately” because it is easier to get angry about a case where someone gets a scratch and walks away with hundreds of thousands. This case is different!

We don’t know why the woman got into the van, but it seems that there is a high probability that she knew that the driver was drunk (three times over the limit!!!) and despite that she most likely didn’t wear a seatbelt. Because of these two things the settlement was a LOT lower (about half) than it could have been otherwise. But the seriously sad thing is that since the accident (3 years ago) the woman is in a vegetative state and is still in hospital.

So the cost the insurance will have to pay are HUGE and I assume that the insurance will have to pay everything even if they might be able to claim some  small amount back from the driver, but he won’t have nearly 6mio in his back pocket, so they will only get a fraction back.

On one hand we can get angry about such a crazily high payment that ultimately has to be paid by all other insured drivers through their insurance premiums. On the other hand we can certainly understand that the woman is NOT in a situation where the insurance money is a nice windfall. The money will be used to modify her home so that she can leave the hospital and then will be needed to care for her for the rest of her life. Without a doubt she and her family would prefer a situation where she wouldn’t need that money. So we can see that sometimes these crazily high premiums are fully understandable, but nevertheless they need to be paid and that is ONE reason for what makes the premiums so high.

There is another reason and that is greed or maybe even lies by the insurances. It seems to be certain (and early morning raids have taken place to secure evidence) that the insurances are paying out LESS money for claims than in previous years, but they still claim that the claims grew.

Is This the End of Drinks Receptions and Exhibition Openings?

I don’t drink much alcohol and because I usually drive, it is just to risky even to have a glass of wine, so it wouldn’t affect me personally much, but it is interesting to observe how confused and ambivalent the attitude to alcohol in our society is.

We know that it is not doing anything good, but it is completely normal to get access to alcohol. Things are different for other substances that could possibly even help suffering patients. An interestingly different approach between the two.

But alcohol challenges the politicians. On one hand, they would like to forbid it, on the other hand they are SERIOUSLY afraid to do so because they fear the negative consequences from the voters at the next elections.

So instead they tinker around with the rules. More and more stringent drink driving laws which drive Danny Healy-Rae crazy and other attempts to influence what happens in society, but the consequent step of a blanket ban will be avoided at all cost.

Now it looks like the next restriction could be free alcohol that you might get at your hair dresser. It seems that the “Irish Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (IACP)” and “Addiction Counsellors of Ireland” are asking the Health Minister to forbid free alcohol at a hair dresser. But if that will be forbidden, then all free alcohol, even at a drinks reception or at an exhibition opening will have to be forbidden. And if free alcohol will be forbidden, then there won’t be any glass of wine to welcome people anymore because the only other alternative would be to sell it and that is obviously illegal without a license.

Just forbid alcohol completely. That would be the only honest thing and then we (and politicians) have to deal with the consequences OR alternatively stop getting into a panic over the odd glass of free drink!

The Irish Independent reported it here.

Discount food markets in Ireland are most popular shops

Every month, Kantar Worldpanel provides an update on market share of the different food shops in Ireland and the headline this time – at least on RTE News – is “SuperValu remains largest grocery retailer“. This is definitely correct when you look at the market share numbers, but what I find a lot more interesting is that the two discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl are combined the largest food sellers in Ireland.

They are two separate shops and on one hand you can’t shouldn’t combine their market share. But on the other hand they BOTH have – in contrast to the others – a rather unique approach to selling food, where own branded products is the majority of products.

The figures are SuperValu 22.1%, Tesco 22.0%, Dunnes Stores 21.6%, Lidl 11.8%, Aldi 11.6%

So if you combine Lidl and Aldi, you arrive at 23.4% and if you compare it to how close the other three are to each others, then a lead of 1.3% is HUGE!

There are still people in Ireland that have never bought anything in Lidl or Aldi and there are still parts of Dublin (Castleknock!) that fight tooth and nail against one of the discounters opening in prime locations there. Odd! Maybe it is a type of snobbery? It certainly is not smart.


MyTaxi increases charges by EUR 2

I know, they would argue that they are not doing that, but if you check your wallet after using a MyTaxi Taxi, you will have EUR 2 less in it than last week, so to me that is an increase.

But let’s start that story at the beginning:
On Wednesday MyTaxi informed their customers that from midnight on that same Wednesday (Thanks for the advance warning! :-O ) MyTaxi drivers would (be allowed to) charge a EUR 2 booking fee for all bookings via the app or phone.

According to MyTaxi, they had told their drivers not to charge that fee in the past, but they are not telling them that anymore and consequently the drivers will/might add that EUR 2 now.

The charge is allowed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) which regulates the taxi fares, so MyTaxi think they are fully compliant with all rules and regulations and probably to add insult to injury, they are claiming on their website (ie.mytaxi.com/pricingpolicy) that “We’re confident that by implementing this change, mytaxi drivers will offer an ever-improving, market-leading service when you need it most.”

Ask your customers and you will be told that you aren’t providing an “ever-improving” service.

I am no expert on Taxi fare history, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that “booking fee” is from the olden days when taxis where “controlled” by radio. You rang their head office/dispatcher and the head office told the driver where to pick you up. The EUR 2 were possibly the charge the head office got. But since you can’t request a MyTaxi taxi any other way than through the app (unless you go to a taxi rank) and because that middle man is not there anymore, it might be that that booking fee is well outdated!?

Either way, it is an effective increase of EUR 2, so now before you drive a metre, you will have to pay EUR 5.60 during the day and EUR 6 at night and – as I reported last week in the Dublin News section of the Dublin Event Guide – this charge will increase in February to EUR 5.80 and EUR 6.00.

I hope we will get the proper Uber service soon (not the crippled Uber service that we have currently)! It seems that some taxi competition is urgently needed. I am aware that Uber is not perfect either and the fact that they lost their license for London in the last few days shows this clearly, but I’d think Uber is fixable.