With the #anglotapes this week it seemed to me a good time to recall those heady days of August 2010 when we had spent only €25 billion on Anglo. At that time Ronan Lyons and I penned this little piece in the Sunday Business Post. — BL
This week, it was announced that the EU had approved a further injection of our taxpayer money into additional capital for Anglo-Irish Bank . This brings the total as of now to almost €25 billion. This is money going into a bank that is essentially in wind-down over the coming decade, money that the Irish citizens and taxpayers will not see again, as it is shoring up the balance sheet of a bank that had too much imaginary wealth. And that is not the end of the money, many fear.
So just how much is €25bn that we are having to borrow for Anglo? In one way, it’s small change, compared to what will possibly be €200bn in borrowings by the State to fund the non-banking deficit between the onset of the crisis and 2020. But to any rational mind €25bn is still a mind-bogglingly large amount of money. The State has limited borrowing capacity, limited by a combination of what the taxpayer can repay. In putting €25 billion into Anglo, the government, on our behalf, has spent money that can not be used for other projects. Here is a list, then, of 100 things – grouped into various categories – that the government could have spent €25 billion but chose not to.
|Ireland could make a major contribution to fighting global poverty|
€25 billion would go a long way in the fight against global poverty. Here are a few suggestions:
100. Buy enough malaria nets to protect the entire malaria-affected population of the world (half a billion people) for 80 years (based on NothingButNets figures of $10 a net)
99. Completely fund the World Food Programme for five years
98. Repair twice over the damage done to Haiti in the recent earthquake
97. Fund enough clean water and infrastructure projects to meet the Millennium Development Goals in those areas
96. Buy up and extinguish the national debt of Bangladesh
95. Fund the UNESCO “Information for All” Project for 1200 years
94. Provide food aid to Niger for 1000 years
93. Asphalt every trunk and regional road (110,000km) of substandard road in sub-Saharan Africa
|Ireland could become a World Science and Technology Hub|
Major scientific and technological projects cost a lot of money. But rarely €25 billion. Here are a few ways Ireland could have used the money to become a global hub for major breakthroughs in science and technology.
92. Start our own space programme, with twenty €1.2 billion space shuttles
91. Foot the bill for a century of global research into nuclear fusion (the current 30-year global ITER project is expected to cost €5-10 billion)
90. Research & develop 5000 new drugs. One of ‘em’s bound to be useful
89. Construct 6 Large Hadron Colliders – one for each Green Party TD
88. Build 5 James Webb Space Telescope (the successor to Hubble), and revolutionise astronomy
87. Build two magnetoplasma space vehicles which in theory could get to mars in 40 days
86. Build a space elevator
85. Build two ITER nuclear fusion reactors and provide the world with cheap, abundant energy.
|We could decide to give ourselves a break|
What about using the €25bn to give ourselves a break? Here are a number of things that €25 billion could pay for, while we take a break.
84. Pay the interest on everyone’s mortgage for 4 years (€147 billion of mortgages at 4% is €5.88 billion a year)
83. Abolish income tax for two years (based on 2009 gov income tax receipts of €11.8 billion)
82. Offer everyone on the live register €100,000 to emigrate (we could afford a 50% take-up by the 466,000 on the dole)
81. Abolish VAT for two and a half years (based on 2009 receipts of €10.8 billion)
80. Remove excise duty from fuel, tobacco and alcohol until 2015 (based on exise receipts of €4.7 billion a year)
79. Pay the grocery bills of everybody in the country for 2.5 years
78. Scrap all fares on all forms of public transport, intercity and commuter trains and buses for 33 years
|We could just treat ourselves|
We could just treat ourselves with the €25 billion windfall. Here are some suggestions as to how.
77. Run the world’s best ever lottery – every Irish citizens is entered into a draw where 25,000 people become millionaires!
76. Give every OAP a pension of 55,000 for a year….
75. Fly the adult population of Ireland to Las Vegas, give everyone €10k to gamble with
74. Give every person in the country €5,555.56
73. Buy half a million ecofriendly Nissan Leaf cars and have enough for a 5GW nuclear power station with the cash left over
72. Provide a new laptop every year to every second level student for 147 years
71. Buy a 32GB iPhone, a 64GB iPad, a 13? 2.13GHz MacBook Air and a 27-inch iMac for every man, woman and child living in Ireland
|We could treat the world|
Treating ourselves is probably a bit selfish. Here are some ways to make the rest of the world like us more!
70. Buy 6.7 billion copies (one for everybody in the world) of Joyce’s “portrait of the artist as a young man”
69. Buy a pint of guinness for everyone in the world to celebrate Arthur’s Day (and it would count as exports)
68. Buy every child in the world a 99 ice-cream cone every day for a week
67. Send every adult in the world on an MSc in Social Media in NCI
66. Send 225,000 people to do the Harvard MBA
|We could truly become the world’s biggest sports fan|
Sport is big business. But not that big. With €25 billion, we could…
65. Buy the world’s 20 most valuable soccer clubs, worth €9.6 billion, wipe their debt (€2.3 billion) and move them to Ireland, building each a 75,000-seater stadium (€600m each, based off cost of Aviva stadium)
64. Host two Olympics games, based on the London 2012 cost of €11.2 billion
63. Buy Tonga and Fiji, which would have obvious rugby advantages
62. Construct 25 Bertie-bowls (one for each county except Dublin!)
61. Buy 83,300 McLaren supercars
60. Buy the entire stock of tickets and merchandise for all premier league clubs for the next 12 years
|We could decide to really become a major player on world markets|
Banking and finance got us into this mess. Surely they can get us out?
59. Buy €600 billion in Credit Default Swaps on Ireland (could pay off nicely in the next few years!)
58. Buy two of Asia’s largest banks – Bank Central Asia and Malayan Banking
57. Recapitalise ALL the banks in Europe that failed the stress tests
56. Purchase Monsanto, as a present for the green party, or (buy Nokia as a present for Ivor Callely)
55. Give each one of the 10,000 most senior bankers a round of golf on old head Kinsale, the most expensive course in Europe, every day for 20 years, and hope that they come up with some ideas!
54. Subsidise the US postal service for ten years.
53. Allow the Italian Government to not put in place its 3-year austerity plan.
52. Pay the salaries of TCD and UCD academics for 100 years.
|We could just do it because we can|
While the Government says it’s not a waste of €25 billion, many people believe it is. Here are ten ways to really spend €25bn.
51. Buy Steve Jobs (€25 billion is actuarial value on his life) and get him to work for Ireland Inc.
50. Buy gold plating 1.75mm thick for O’Connell Street
49. 25,00 carats of red diamond, enough to encrust a Mercedes.
48. Build a shed 10k long by 4k wide and put it around Tullamore.
47. Buy every one of the 5.8m cattle in the country, and to keep their little feet cosy two pairs of jimmy choos each
46. Detach the People’s Republic of Cork from the Republic of Ireland, by constructing a 10-metre wide moat – the per-kilometre cost of the new Gothard Tunnel in Switzerland suggests this may cost €30bn but I’m sure we could haggle them down in a recession.
45. Cover the entire county of Dublin a foot deep in corn
44. Hire Bertie to speak for 95 years
43. Purchase carbon credits to allow us to burn 3,000 sq miles of hardwood forest
42. Build 20 copies of the Burj Khalifa Dubai, the worlds tallest building
|We could just splash the cash|
When people win the lottery, there’s naturally a tendency to splash the cash. Winning a €25 billion lottery would certainly allow us to splash the cash. Here are some ideas.
41. Buy 1,000 luxury yachts to kickstart the Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme (78-footers, 2nd-tier Russian oligarch standard)
40. Buy over one third of Denmark, 10% of France or three Luxembourgs, based on 2008 land costs
39. Send 833 people into space (or perhaps just 1,666 one way trips…)
38. Stay in the most expensive hotel room in the world for 3,400 years (it’s the Atlantis resort, Bahamas in case you were wondering)
37. Build 50 ginormous cruise liners akin to Carnival Splendour or Queen Mary 2
36. Make 100 Avatar-type films, which lets remember made back its money x4 at the box office!
35. Buy every TD a Boeing Dreamliner, ideal for those trips to Glenties
34. Purchase 35 of the world’s most expensive mobile phone (goldstriker iPhone 3GS supreme) for every member of the Oireachtas!
33. Build four Libraries of Alexandia in each county.
32. Endow one university to the level of Harvard.
31. Tile Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown totally in nice porcelain.
30. Buy five Nimitz Class Nuclear supercarriers to scare the bejaysus out of the Spanish trawlers.
29. Or buy 17 Virginia Class nuclear attack submarines, if we wanted to sneak up on the Spanish trawlers instead.
28. Supply the water needs of Galway City, for a year, with Perrier water
27. Purchase four Birkin Hermes bags for every adult female in the country, one for each season’s wardrobe.
26. Buy and install 100 sq yards of parquet flooring for every single dwelling in the country.
25. Fill the Jack Lynch Tunnel with Midleton Single Cask whiskey
24. Purchase 225,000 kg of the most expensive truffles in the world
23. Buy every house and apartment listed on DAFT.ie and still have 12 billion left to refurbish them
|We could transport ourselves out of this mess|
With €25 billion in our back pockets, all those pie-in-the-sky superprojects would no longer be pie in the sky! Here are ten ways Ireland could put itself on the global superproject map.
22. Construct our own “Channel Tunnel” from Rosslare to Pembroke (based on the cost of the Jack Lynch tunnel)
21. Build 1,000 km of high-speed rail, serving all major coastal cities on the island (based on recent costs in Spain)
20. Build 11,150 miles of dual carriageway
19. Put in place a 400 station metro (if we could build it for the cost of Porto’s metro)
18. Put in place a Maglev train from Belfast to Cork via Dublin
17. Build our own Three Gorges Dam, complete with turbines
16. Put in place 12 new Luas lines
15. Build just short of two Hong Kong International Airport (€15 bn each)
14. Build 12 New York-style “Freedom Towers” at €2bn each
13. If we didnt want a tunnel we could have five Oresund-style 20km long bridges (Denmark – Sweden, €5b)
|We could pay for improved public services|
And lastly, some slightly more practical ways to spend €25bn
12. Build 75 brand new 50-teacher schools and run them for 75 years
11. Build 35 new Children’s Hospitals (based on €700m cost of new Children’s Hospital in Dublin)
10. Pay for an extra 5,000 hospital consultants for 62.5 years, based on Finnish wage (or for 29 years based on Irish wages)
9. Pay for cervical cancer vaccines for every girl going into 1st year for the next 8,333 years
8. Reduce the pupil teacher ratio in primary schools to 1 in 10 for the next 20 years
7. Given an ultra highspeed fibre-optic broadband connection to every single house (including ghost estates…)
6. Buy 8,500 years of private speech and language counselling and really help autistic and speech problematic children
5. Introduce free pre-schooling for 32 years, based on an average cost of €700 a month for two years of 10 months, for all 110,000 children in the country
4. Make education properly free – the current cost from primary school to degree graduation is €70,000 per child. €25bn would bring nearly 400,000 students through their entire education
3. Give medical cards to everyone, for 25 years based on €500m cost in 2009 to cover 1.5m people
2. We could use the money to renew and replace the drainage and water system of all mains
1. Or we could buy one broken bank…oh, hang on…..
So, a mixture of the bizarre, the stupid, the deeply practical, the useful, all tinged with a sense of lost opportunity. A bit like the government’s solution to the banking crisis really! What this list shows us is that choices matter. Its unlikely that any government would have #50, paving O’Connell street in gold, as a priority (well, not perhaps unless its leader was from Dublin Central), But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a government with the courage and vision to do #18, a maglev on the east coast, which would catapult Ireland into a world leading technological position and cement the all-Ireland economy? or decide #96 to lift Bangladesh out of poverty? Or … the list goes on, a list of lost opportunities. And when one considers the additional €100 billion that represents the structural element of the government debt, well…
While Colm McCarthy is correct, that anger is not a policy, its hard to be anything but enraged when one considers the sheer scale of wasted opportunities.