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Ireland unveils 15-bln-euro austerity plan to secure bailout

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 5:20 am

DUBLIN, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – Ireland unveiled a 15-billion-euro austerity package Wednesday required to unlock an international bailout, slashing public sector pay and pensions but refusing to raise corporation tax.

With the eyes of Europe on his debt-ridden nation, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said his four-year package of cuts and tax increases would restore shattered confidence, calling it a signpost on the road to recovery.

A women looks at works of art for sale from the Bank of Ireland auction in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, on November 24, 2010. AFP

“We can and we will pull through this as we have in the past,” Cowen told a news conference.

“We are a smart, resilient, proud people and we are going to come through this challenge because we love our country.”

The 20-billion-dollar plan, to be followed by a budget on December 7, is an essential step towards Ireland receiving a bailout of up to 85 billion euros (114 billion dollars) from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The aim is to slash the public deficit to below three percent of gross domestic product, in line with EU rules, after it ballooned to 32 percent of GDP this year.

Among the key points of the package, sales tax will be raised to 23 percent from 21 percent by 2014, but the 12.5-percent corporation tax rate — a key attraction for foreign companies to invest in Ireland — will be maintained.

The government said it expected unemployment to be brought below 10 percent by 2014, from its current level of over 13 percent.

The minimum wage will be cut by one euro to 7.65 euros an hour, but the government said it would still be one of the highest rates in the EU.

The EU’s economic commissioner Olli Rehn said the package was “a sound basis for the negotiations” on the international bailout.

As Ireland strove to prove it was trying to get its house in order, another heavily-indebted eurozone country, Portugal, was paralysed by a general strike on Wednesday called to protest against deep spending cuts.

The EU fears Portugal will be the next eurozone nation to require a bailout after Greece and Ireland.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was prepared to help Ireland, but its support was conditional on Dublin “making clear what steps (it) must take to get back on a path of stabilisation”.

Cowen meanwhile fought off calls from the opposition Tuesday to call a snap election, insisting the budget must be passed first.

Irish lawmakers are unlikely to vote on the budget until January, meaning that an election could not take place until February or March.

The EU has told the main Fine Gael opposition party that while the plan’s fiscal targets are non-negotiable it will re-negotiate specific details with an incoming government, finance spokesman Michael Noonan said.

Noonan insisted the plan was “disappointing in its poverty of ambition and detail.”

Experts warned that the plan would not immediately ease Ireland’s problems.

“Uncertainty caused by the collapse of the government… will continue to hang over Ireland in the coming weeks,” National Irish Bank economist, Ronnie O’Toole, said.

IHS Global Insight economist Sonia Pangusion predicted “the downtrend in consumer confidence will accelerate,” adding that the plan for an export-based recovery “increases Ireland’s economic risk.”

The government has been under pressure since caving in and agreeing to accept the bailout on Sunday night.

Despite reports that it is worth 85 billion euros, Cowen told parliament earlier Wednesday the amount had still to be decided as negotiations were ongoing.

The international loans to Dublin are in part intended to shore up banks left with huge debts from the collapse of an overheated property market.

But the bailout is also designed to stem fears of contagion in other eurozone nations such as Portugal and even the far larger Spanish economy, which came under pressure on the markets.

Spain’s deputy finance minister Jose Manuel Campa insisted that “an abyss separates us from Ireland”.

Despite the efforts to shore up the single European currency, the euro fell slightly below 1.34 Wednesday after sinking below 1.33 dollars earlier because of fears over the eurozone and the Korean crisis. 

Source: SGGP

Denmark proud of efforts to secure climate pact: PM

In World on December 20, 2009 at 4:37 am

COPENHAGEN, Dec 19, 2009 (AFP) – Denmark can be proud of its efforts to secure an agreement at the UN climate conference, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said on Saturday.

A view of the meeting (AFP photo)

“We made the difference. Denmark can be proud of itself for having built an historic bridge between the parties in the negotiations,” Rasmussen told the Danish news agency Ritzau.

“I don’t think you could find any example in history where you would have seen the leaders of the United States, Brazil, South Africa and India along with the heads of state from Europe and the small island states threatened by global warming all in the same room, working together as a group.”

The Danish premier came in for heavy criticism over his stewardship of the often rancorous 13-day meeting which was due to wrap up on Saturday after a deal was clinched by US President Barack Obama and other major leaders.

Rasmussen said that it was unrealistic to expect Denmark to deliver results on its own.

“I can’t just tell the Chinese or the Americans: ‘Do this or that’,” he said.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Benitez backs Reds to secure top four finish

In Vietnam Sports on November 22, 2009 at 12:24 pm

LIVERPOOL, England, Nov 22, 2009 (AFP) – Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez brushed aside his team’s stuttering form to insist that they will finish in the top four.

The defiant Spaniard watched from the sidelines as Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Manchester City left last season’s Premier League runners-up with just one win in 10 games in all competitions.

Rafael Benitez (R) gestures while Mark Hughes Manager of Manchester City (L) watches during a Premier League match at Anfield in Liverpool, on November 21, 2009. AFP PHOTO

It would have been far worse had substitute Yossi Benayoun not salvaged a point with a late equaliser after goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland threatened another dismal day for the Merseysiders.

But a bad day from Liverpool got even worse as Benitez, already missing key striker Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson through injury, saw Danish defender Daniel Agger stretchered off with concussion, while Dutch forward Ryan Babel damaged an ankle.

Yet Benitez is confident his side will bounce back with a winning run once his walking wounded have recovered, and believes Liverpool will still seal a Champions League berth next season despite their poor form.

“You cannot be happy when you draw at home,” said Benitez. “You have a game plan, but then you lose Johnson on the morning of the game and then Agger is stretchered off and Babel has to go off as well.

“The positive thing is we showed great character when we went behind.

“You cannot ask for more than that from the players.

“I think we won six games in a row not so long ago and we have to think positive. When we have all our players coming back I am confident we will start winning games in a row.

“City have quality but if we can improve and play at our level, we will finish in the top four.”

Benitez is confident England full-back Johnson, who failed a fitness test on a calf injury, will be available to face Debrecen in Hungary on Tuesday, a game Liverpool have to win if they are to have any chance of remaining in the Champions League.

Benayoun, who went off towards the end of the game, should also be fit while Benitez is refusing to rule out Babel and Agger, who needed five stitches in his head wound.

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes said his players had allowed a great chance to beat Liverpool slip.

Martin Skrtel had given the hosts the lead with his first goal for the club before goals by Adebayor and Ireland turned the game in City’s favour only for Benayoun to snatch an equaliser.

“In the past City teams would have been happy with a point at Anfield, but we’re going home disappointed,” said Hughes, who confirmed that Brazil’s Robinho is on the brink of returning to action after damaging an ankle.

“At the moment it feels like a chance has been lost.”

City have now drawn their last six league matches, but Hughes added: “It is only a matter of time before we start winning again.

“It’s not a worry (that City are allowing leads to slip). It’s more a frustration.

“We deserved a win against Liverpool. I felt we could have seen the game out after getting our noses in front.”

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share