Wednesday 4th June 2014
Irish exchequer tax revenue figures exceeds Government’s target by €450 million
Latest figures come as michael Noonan suggests the planned €2 billion adjustment may not be necessary
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “I don’t think €2 billion is the relevant figure
The State’s finances are continuing to improve with the latest official figures showing tax revenue running nearly €450 million ahead of projections for the first five months of the year, while spending is lower than forecast.
The better-than-expected out-turn for tax, if maintained, gives Minister for Finance Michael Noonan potentially more leeway to ease up on austerity in the upcoming budget.
He suggested earlier today that the planned €2 billion adjustment required to achieve the troika-agreed deficit target of 3% in 2015 may not be necessary.
“I don’t think €2 billion is the relevant figure. The relevant figure is to get the deficit below three per cent of GDP,” he said.
“With the tax numbers out this afternoon, and a couple of other things on the horizon, it might be possible to deliver a deficit of below three per cent without an adjustment of €2 billion.
“But it’s only early June so there’s a lot of things will move in the next three or four months. We’ll have a better idea as we come closer.”
His comments are at odds with recent warnings from Brussels that a €2 billion retrenchment was still required.
The exchequer returns – for the five months to the end of May – show tax revenue of €15.6 billion, which is 5.6% up on last year, and €446 million or 2.9% higher than the department’s own forecast.
Income tax, which is the biggest tax heading, generated €6.6 billion, which is 7.8% up on last year, and €114 million or 1.8% ahead of profile for the period.
Department of Finance said higher income tax receipts reflected improving conditions in the labour market.
The figures show the Revenue’s VAT intake, which has been behind projections up to now on the back of weak consumer spending, came in marginally ahead of expectations.
The sales tax generated €5.2 billion for Government coffers, which was 4.4% up on last year, and €39 million or 0.7% better than forecast.
Corporation tax receipts came in at €981 million, 13%t ahead of profile.
Excise duty was €1.9 billion, which was 5.5% up on the year and €91 million or 4.9% ahead of projections.
The better-than-expected excise receipts were linked to strong car sales in the early part of the year.
Overall, the exchequer deficit stood at €3.5 billion at the end of May, down from €5.3 billion at this stage last year.
According to the department, the main drivers behind this improvement are increased tax revenue, lower expenditure and a significant reduction in bank guarantee payments associated with the liquidation of IBRC, formerly Anglo.
On the spending side, the May figures show total net voted expenditure of €17.1 billion, which is €484 million, or 2.7%, down on the same period last year, and €156 million less than forecast.
Most worryingly, the main overrun is once again in health with spending €144 million or 2.8% ahead of profile.
This is offset, however, by underspends in several other departments, most notably social protection, where spending was €138 million or 2.7% lower than expected.
On the basis of these figures, the Government is on course to hit its budget deficit target for 2014 of 5.1% of gross domestic product.
The cost of serving the national debt to the exchequer was €4.07 billion so far this year, a decrease of €177 million or 4.2% on last year.
7,000 people in Ireland a month drop their private health insurance
Costly private health insurance has been dropped by an average of 7,000 people a month since the beginning of the year, according to the Health Insurance Authority (HIA).
This is more than double the rate for the last nine months of 2013 when an average of 2,800 people a month opted to stop paying for private health insurance.
The HIA said that by the end of March this year, 2.03m people had private in-patient health cover.
This represents a decrease of 21,000 for the first three months of this year alone.
The figure compares with 26,000 people dropping their insurance for the nine months to December of last year.
The number of people paying for policies is now at its lowest ever level, with only 44% of the population covered – a drop of 1% since last December and 7% since 2008.
At the peak in 2008, 2.3m people were covered by private health insurance, which represented almost 51% of the population.
Studies by the HIA have shown that cost is the primary reason people give up their health insurance.
One survey showed that two-thirds of those who gave it up did so because it was too expensive.
One in five said it was no longer value for money, which compared with less than one in 10 only two years previously.
This was particularly true for the 35 to 54 age group.
Irish teenager’s at he top of EU for coke use
Irish teenagers are in one of the top spots of the league table of cocaine use in the EU, new research has identified.
Schoolchildren aged between 15 and 16 are among the most regular users of the lethal drug, the survey has found.
A total of 3% of Irish teens in that category said that they have tried cocaine.
But the number jumps when it comes to experimentation with cannabis – almost one in five said they have tried the drug.
And a further 2% of 6-year-olds have tried ecstasy.
drug Abuse: Drug use amongst all young Irish people is the third highest when it comes to cocaine abuse.
Irish under-35s fall just behind their Spanish and UK counterparts, according to the research.
The latest survey shows that almost a quarter of European teenagers have dabbled in illegal drugs at some point or other with cannabis being the most widely used drug.
Usage is 1.5 times more likely among males compared with females.
Cocaine is now the most widely available illegal drug in Europe with 2.2 million users in the 15 to 34 age group.
The report was compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which also found the so-called darknet’ is increasingly used by both dealers and addicts.
Drug overdose remains a major cause of avoidable death among young Europeans – particularly in Nordic countries.
The findings follow a recent HSE public alert after a number of fatalities were linked to pills called “Green Apple” and “Green Rolex”.
The HSE also believes a lethal ecstasy-type substance known as “Double Cross” has now made its way into the Irish drugs scene.
Help call: Paul Conlon, CEO for Aiseiri, which provides residential services to help young people overcome addiction, said the majority of addicts it saw were battling a range of addictions.
“We now treat teenagers dealing with multiple drug issues – cocaine is part of a wider selection of drugs people indulge in,” he said.
“We’re seeing high levels of cannabis use, as well as a range of head-shop drugs, which are being accessed via the internet. Opiates are also in the mix.
“But I’m not surprised Ireland has a high prevalence of cocaine and stimulant use compared to European averages.”
Researchers have found a massive underground river network in Galway Bay
These rivers could be flowing under the seabed out as far as 48 kilometer’s from the shore.
Evidence from residents on the Aran Islands and local fishermen has led to the discovery of a massive underground river network in Galway Bay.
These rivers are made possible due to the limestone landscape of Galway being easily dissolved by rainwater to form conduits underground – the same process that produced the distinctive karst landscape of the Burren.
They have been tapped into by islanders for supplies of fresh water – the result of rain falling on the land, running through the limestone, and then flowing out under the sea.
Researchers from NUI Galway’s school of Earth and Ocean Sciences predict that some of these rivers, hidden under the seabed, could be up to 48 kilometres long and 20 metres wide.
“We were told about a well at a local hotel on Inishmaan that had an excellent supply of fresh water,” Dr Tiernan Henry, Lecturer in Environmental Geology, School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway said.
“The islands can have water problems, they are always short, but this well went deep into the rock and was getting more water than falls on the whole island.”
Fishermen familiar with the area had also reported freshwater risings in areas along the south coast of Galway Bay.
This prompted researchers to investigate the claims further, leading to identification of these ‘freshwater rivers’.
The Burren was last year given an award to recognise the work being undertaken to conserve some of Europe’s most outstanding natural and semi-natural areas.
The Council of Europe chose the Burren, stating the award “recognises the European significance of the area, which has remarkable natural values, a rich flora and fauna, an important cultural heritage, traditional socio-economic activities and good management”.
Irish scientists discover Wakatobi Flowerpecker a new bird species
A new species of a tiny, colourful bird the Wakatobi Flowerpecker (Male bird above) has been found by Irish scientists in a small under-explored island chain in the tropics.
Zoologists from Trinity College Dublin named the new find the Wakatobi Flowerpecker (Dicaeum kuehni) after identifying it on numerous expeditions to the biodiversity hotspot of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Sean Kelly, PhD student at Trinity and lead author of the study confirming the discovery, warned that the pace of development in the region could wipe out other undocumented creatures before they are identified.
“As humans are changing the natural environments of Sulawesi at an incredibly fast rate, the discovery and description of species in the region is of major importance,” he said.
“This study also highlights the need for integrative, multi-disciplinary research in the region.
“Without this we will likely fail to recognise and appreciate the true biodiversity of this remarkable region. Furthermore, we run the risk of losing evolutionarily distinct species before we can even discover or enjoy them.”
The female flowerpecker.
The Wakatobi flowerpecker is genetically distinct and substantially larger than its closest relative, the grey sided flowerpecker, which it does not mix or breed with. The studies also showed that it does not cross a 27km stretch of sea where its neighbour lives.
The region where the discovery was made, the Wakatobi islands in south-east Sulawesi, was made famous in science circles by one of the forgotten fathers of modern science, Alfred Russel Wallace.
He independently conceived the idea of evolution by natural selection in the 1850s. Some of his work was published alongside writings by his more famous contemporary Charles Darwin before the groundbreaking Origin Of The Species went to print.
Despite boasting an incredibly large number of bird species that are found nowhere else in the world, the Sulawesi region has remained poorly studied.
Scientists now believe that the lack of research and genetic analyses on similar birds has meant that the number of species on the relatively under-explored islands has been significantly underestimated.
The findings of this latest zoological discovery have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Dr Nicola Marples, associate professor of zoology at Trinity and senior author on the paper, said the protection status of the Wakatobi islands must be reassessed following the discovery.
“While the islands sit within the Wakatobi Marine National Park, they currently receive no protection. The Wakatobi Islands are an incredibly exciting place to work and they serve as a unique living laboratory in which we can study evolution in action,” she said.
There are many different varieties of the flowerpecker across the tropics with the spectacled flowerpecker also a separate species and only identified in Borneo in 2009.