With all the public/private disharmony, the semi-states have flown largely under the radar. Given that we're now searching down the back of the sofa for every last cent, is this an area where there should be more focus? I'm particularly thinking of the ESB/services, and cutting their prices for consumers, financed if necessary by salary cuts to employees (though simply trimming profits might do the trick).
Arguments in favour:
1. Would cut living expenses for individuals and make doing business in Ireland more competitive.
2. As a consequence of (1), there's less in the way of mortgage default, a little more money to spend in the economy, and a greater incentive (or at least less deterrent) for businesses to establish here, with potential for greater tax take in VAT & corporate tax.
3. In a climate where most in the country are on their knees, should the point of a semi-state be to make profit, or just to cover its costs?
4. Employees have been largely untouched to date: They seem to have high levels of job security and haven't been hit by either public sector wage cuts/levies or private sector downward pressure on salaries. So they're probably one of the few subgroups that have a little more available to give.
Revealed: A startling array of perks on offer for ESB staff - Independent.ie
Average pay in semi-state companies was
ESB International: Careers: Why ESBI: ESBI Benefits
5. It seems the semi-states are being fattened up ready for sale. Cutting their profits presumably reduces their sale value.
6. Reduced profits = less going to government coffers. (But see 2 above - stimulus effect counteracts this.)
7. Reduced salaries = reduced income tax to govt. And if employees' salaries were cut, no doubt there would be a protest, and possibly industrial action. (Although many of the semi-states don't enjoy the monopoly they used to have so this isn't quite the threat it would have been in the 1980s.)
As someone who's just about coping by adapting lifestyle to counteract repeated cuts (no car, no TV, no holidays, shopping strictly in discount outlets) I've reached the point where a reduction in my household electricity rate - for example - would make a big difference. Whereas instead I'm about to be hit by a new broadcast levy for a broadcaster I don't watch, and a new water charge. I have to wonder whether RTE shouldn't just be told to survive on their advertising income and cut their cloth accordingly. I doubt Pat, Marian et al. would all leave, and if they did, sure what harm?
It seems to me that reducing the burden the semi-states place on both individuals and businesses could be the stimulus we need - or at least stop a few more folk from going under.