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SALE OF STATE ASSETS

The cabinet is to consider a report in the coming days that recommends the sale of state companies and assets with a book value of €5 billion, The Sunday Business Post reports.

In what will be a “major test of its differences on economic policy,” the document by the author of the so-called Bord Snip report Colm McCarthy urges the sale of certain public assets to raise much-needed funding.

The newspaper’s political editor Pat Leahy spells out the furore this is likely to create and the potential fissures it could open between the coalition parties – or at least among Labour’s rank and file support base.

“The issue of the privatisation or sell-off of publicly-owned assets hits right at the heart of the ideological differences between Labour and Fine Gael,” Leahy points out. “Labour is wary of the plans and has close ties to the trade unions which are fiercely opposed to any sell-off. Most state companies, such as the ESB, are highly unionised, with workers enjoying favourable wage levels. Fine Gael has been in favour of the sale of state companies to raise funds under its New Era proposals for investment in water, telecoms and power.”

The Programme For Government envisaged €2 billion would be raised by the sale of ‘non-strategic’ assets but didn’t stipulate what these might be. Quoting “sources familiar with the preliminary discussions”, the newspaper says the companies who own the grids and networks are sacrosanct but ESB and Bord Gáis could come into play, as they are now competing with private providers in a deregulated market.

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