News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 20th April 2016.

Ireland’s budget deficit higher than the Government’s official forecast

Eurostat ruling means State recorded deficit of 2.3% of GDP

      

The Government was obliged to comply with a 2010 European recommendation to bring the deficit to a maximum of 2.9% by the end of 2015. 

Ireland’s year end budget deficit came in higher than the outgoing Government’s official forecast due to an unexpected ruling by Eurostat, the EU statistical agency.

The 2015 figure was still low enough to ensure Dublin will no longer be subjected to stringent fiscal oversight from Brussels for running an excessive deficit.

However, Eurostat’s ruling led to the State recording a general government deficit of 2.3% of GDP. The figure was almost 1 percentage point higher than foreseen by the Government, which was proceeding on the basis that the surge a surge in tax receipts and GDP growth last year would bring the deficit to 1.3%.

At issue in Eurostat’s ruling was its formal classification of a one-off share transaction in the nationalised Allied Irish Banks.

Contrary to expectations in Dublin, the Luxembourg-based organisation designated the conversion last year of AIB preference shares to ordinary shares as a general government expenditure. The redemption of the preference shares by AIB yielded €1.6 billion for the State.

The year-end debt-to-GDP ratio came in lower than anticipated at 94%, down from 107.5% in 2014.

“The outturn data and future forecasts demonstrate that the excessive deficit has been corrected in a durable manner,” said the Department of Finance.

“ This performance together with the forecast reduction in the deficit in 2016 to 1.1% of GDP means that Ireland should exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure as expected.”

The Government was obliged to comply with a 2010 European recommendation no bring the deficit to a maximum of 2.9% by the end of 2015. The 2.4% of deficit means this condition was met on time, clearing the way for Ireland to exit Europe’s “excessive deficit procedure” in coming weeks.

Member state which are subject to procedure face a tougher form of fiscal scrutiny by the authorities in Brussels, so one particular set of oversight rules will no longer apply to Ireland. Still, the strengthening of the euro zone rulebook during the sovereign debt crisis means Dublin will be obliged to comply with another set of onerous targets.

“The underlying general government deficit of 1.3% of GDP and the reduction in the debt to GDP ratio to under 94% demonstrates strongly the continued improvement in Ireland‘s public finances,” said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

“Indeed, the strength of the performance is such that impact of the treatment of the AIB preference share transaction by Eurostat leaves the headline deficit at 2.3%,” he added.

“This is still well within the excessive deficit procedure limit of 2.9% that Ireland had to achieve last year. The one-off nature of the transaction affecting the 2015 figures has no further implications and my Department is forecasting a deficit of 1.1% of GDP for 2016.”

The Department said the end-2015 debt figure was in line with the euro zone average, adding that the forecast for 2016 was a “further reduction” in the ratio to just under 89% of GDP.

This figures and the projection of 1.1% deficit reflects a “provisional forecast” by the Department. The forecast will be updated in the “stability programme update”, which is a formal submission the State must make to Brussels by the end of this month.

The document typically embraces an update on the fiscal situation six months since the budget, as well a new economic forecast for the current year and an initial forecast for the following year. However, the filing is likely to be delayed due to prolonged political wrangling over the formation of the next government.

‘I know Irish people are frustrated with Government talks’  Say’s Varadkar

     

Leo Varadkar left photo.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he understood people were “frustrated” as his party’s talks with Fianna Fail ended without agreement tonight.

Negotiations to facilitate a minority Fine Gael Government will continue tomorrow again in Trinity College – a neutral venue for both sides.

“The process is slow and we have to refer back to our party leaders. But I think it is fair to say we have made progress today,” Mr Varadkar said.

“It’s almost two months since the election and I know members of the public as well as politicians are frustrated but I think it’s moving in the right direction.”

Discussions finished yesterday on Irish Water – an issue both sides disagreed on.

However, Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath said progress had been made on the issue this evening after an hour and half in discussion.

“(Negotiations) continued across a range of areas and we continued to make progress across the main policy areas such as housing, homelessness,” said Mr McGrath.

“We’re very focused on supporting families, people with cost of living issues and of course Irish Water.”

Cut sitting time in office by 71 minutes to live longer

    

Office goers should take note! Reducing sitting time at workplace by 71 minutes per day may lower the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and all-cause mortality, a new study has claimed.

Researchers conducted a multi-component work-based intervention to reduce sitting time and prolonged sitting periods.

The results, which were followed up at one month and three months, showed a reduction of 0.61 percentage points in body fat percentage. This was as a result of 71 minutes shorter sitting time during working hours after one month.

“A reduction in sitting time by 71 minutes per day and increases in interruptions could have positive effects and, in the long run, could be associated with reduced risk of heart diseases, diabetes and all-cause mortality, especially among those who are inactive in their leisure time,” said Janne Tolstrup from University of Southern Denmark.

As many as 317 office workers in 19 offices across Denmark and Greenland were randomly put into the intervention or control groups. The intervention included environmental office changes and a lecture and workshop, where workers were encouraged to use their sit-stand desks.

By wearing an accelerometer device, researchers were able to measure results across a five day working week.

After one month, participants in the intervention group sat down for 71 minutes less in an 8 hour work day than the control group. This reduced to 48 minutes after three months.

The number of steps per workday hour was seven per cent higher at one month and eight per cent higher at three months, researchers said.

Relatively few people complained of any pain as a result of standing more, with less than six per cent of people reporting negative consequences, they said.

The findings were published in the journal International Journal of Epidemiology.

With Parkinson’s disease ‘Many patients hide their symptom’s

   

More than a third of people in the UK with Parkinson’s disease feel the need to hide their symptoms or lie about having the condition, a survey for a charity suggests.

They feel the symptoms are not socially acceptable and may embarrass those close to them, Parkinson’s UK said.

It added it was concerned that too many people were struggling alone with their diagnosis, affecting emotional health.

The disease affects 127,000 people in the UK – about one in 500 people.

The main symptoms are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.

The charity surveyed 1,868 people with the disease to find out how they dealt with their diagnosis.

The fear of stigma?

One in three with the condition said they had delayed telling friends and family about their diagnosis with some of the main reasons including the fear of being stigmatised.

The charity said the findings also revealed a worrying level of emotional repercussions for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Younger people reported being hardest hit by the diagnosis to the extent that many said they felt “like their world had ended” and said “they didn’t know who to turn to”.

Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson’s UK, said not getting help for the degenerative neurological condition was having a devastating impact on people’s emotional health.

“We are determined that each and every person with Parkinson’s is aware of the support available so they can feel equipped to have these difficult conversations.

“We know that the right support, whether through family, friends or Parkinson’s UK, is vital for those with the condition, to help them come to terms with their diagnosis and know that they’re not alone.”

He added: “We are here to help people find the support they need, when they need it.”

800,000 get drinking water from inadequate plants Says EPA

Cork city and south county Dublin among places on agency’s remedial list

    

Water supplies to 800,000 people were affected by issues such as inadequate treatment for cryptosporidium, inadequate disinfection, and poor control of trihalomethanes.

The number of people getting their drinking water from inadequate water treatment plants has grown to 800,000, according to the latest report from the Environmental Protection Agency published on Wednesday afternoon.

Water supplies to 800,000 people were affected by issues such as inadequate treatment for cryptosporidium, inadequate disinfection, and poor control of trihalomethanes – the chemical compounds which have been linked to cancers.

The figure applies to the first three months of 2016, up 21,000 from the last three months of 2015.

On the remedial action list are large scale supplies such as that serving a population of 106,000 people in Cork city and a supply serving more than 21,000 people in central Kerry. In Dublin the Ballyboden reservoir which serves south county Dublin is on the list, requiring the reservoir to be covered by 2017.

The remedial action list is used by the EPA to prioritise the most serious deficiencies in public water supplies. It is compiled form audits and audits and investigations of drinking water quality failures.

Inclusion on the list does not necessarily mean the drinking water is unfit for consumption, but that the infrastructure is not adequate to prevent such an occurrence.

The primary issues identified by the EPA include: effective disinfection, ineffective barriers to cryptosporidium, and inadequate control of trihalomethanes.

A spokesman for the EPA said the “continuing high numbers of people getting their drinking water from schemes listed on the EPA remedial action list highlights the need for a sustained increase in investment in our water services. Without this investment the risk of new water restrictions and boil water notices continues”.

Scientists say 93% of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached

    

Footage taken at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows what authorities are calling the worst coral bleaching in 15 years.

The conclusions are in from a series of scientific surveys of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event — an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth — and scientists aren’t holding back about how devastating they find them.

Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force has surveyed 911 coral reefs by air, and found at least some bleaching on 93 percent of them. The amount of damage varies from severe to light, but the bleaching was the worst in the reef’s remote northern sector — where virtually no reefs escaped it.

“Between 60 and 100% of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef,” Prof. Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a statement to the news media. He led the research.

Severe bleaching means that corals could die, depending on how long they are subject to these conditions. The scientists also reported that based on diving surveys of the northern reef, they already are seeing nearly 50 percent coral death.

“The fact that the most severely affected regions are those that are remote and hence otherwise in good shape, means that a lot of prime reef is being devastated,” said Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution, in an email in response to the bleaching announcement. “One has to hope that these protected reefs are more resilient and better able to [recover], but it will be a lengthy process even so.”

Knowlton added that Hughes, who led the research, is “NOT an alarmist.”

  Here’s a map that the group released when announcing the results, showing clearly that bleaching hit the northern parts of the reef the worst:

Hughes tweeted about the map, writing, “I showed the results of aerial surveys of #bleaching on the #GreatBarrierReef to my students, And then we wept.”

“This is, by far, the worst bleaching they’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Mark Eakin, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, which partners with the Australian National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “Our climate model-based Four Month Bleaching Outlook was predicting that severe bleaching was likely for the [Great Barrier Reef] back in December. Unfortunately, we were right and much of the reef has bleached, especially in the north.”

Responding to the news Wednesday, the Australian government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority put out a statement from its chairman Russell Reichelt. “While the data is incomplete, it is clear there will be an impact on coral abundance because of bleaching-induced mortality, mainly in the far north,” the statement said in part.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by unusually high water temperatures, or from other causes. When this happens, symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, leave the corals’ bodies. This changes their color to white and can also in effect starve them of nutrients. If bleaching continues for too long, corals die.

There already have been reports of mass coral death around the Pacific atoll of Kiribati this year — and widespread coral bleaching worldwide, a phenomenon that scientists attribute to a strong El Niño event surfing atop a general climate warming trend.

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