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Noonan's former right-hand man says government should consider raising retirement age

The former Secretary General of the Department of Finance said the focus should shift from tax cuts to reducing the cost of living.

Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance.
Former Secretary General of the Department of Finance.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE FORMER FINANCE Minister’s right-hand man has said the government should consider raising the age of retirement.

John Moran, who was the key advisor to former Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the former Secretary General of the Department of Finance, said raising the age of retirement by up to two years could save several billion Euro.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, he said nowadays politicians often focus on the small stuff, like the increase on tax on cigarettes, rather than the bigger questions because it is hard to get people to engage with them.

Instead, he said the focus of this Dáil is on other issues, such as water refunds.

“Too often our budgetary decisions focus on what are actually very small items – rather than the big picture,” he said.

“[Such as] When you decide ‘we’re not going to pay for water’, which is a service we use. It seems logical that you pay and in fact if you do pay, you tend to probably want to use less of it, which is good ecologically. When we decide that actually we aren’t going to charge people for that, we have to make and understand the other side of the equation of that because there is an equation and money doesn’t grow on trees,” he added.

Moran first joined the Department of Finance in 2012, but it wasn’t long before the new Secretary General was making headlines, with the €85,000 spent on his headhunt coming in for scrutiny.

His career to date has seen spells at Zurich Bank, Zurich Capital Markets, Dublin law firm McCann Fitzgerald, as well as opening a juice bar in Cordes-sur-Siel in the South of France.

90266218_90266218 Former Minister for Finance Michael Noonan with former Secretary General of the Department, John Moran. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

When he joined the department, it was a baptism of fire for Moran when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee in June of 2012, to account for how the government managed to overstate its debt liabilities by more than €3.6 billion.

He left the department in 2014.

Tackling the cost of living

Speaking ahead of October’s Budget, Moran said the focus needs to shift away from the likes of tax cuts and water refunds on to bigger ticket items such as raising the age of retirement and reducing the cost of living.

Moran said TDs have ignored the result of the last election, which he said clearly showed that voters are willing to forego tax cuts in return for improved services.

“The last election to my mind was a very clear message that if money was spent wisely, people in the country were prepared to defer tax cuts and in fact to defer money in their own pockets, if it could be spent wisely for the common good. That’s what parliament should decide. They are the ones that ultimately set what the level of spending should be, what the level of taxation should be.

“We are still an incredibly rich country by international standards. So why is it that we have such poor infrastructure? It’s because we make decisions to spend on money on other things,” Moran said.

“There is no tooth fairy for infrastructure – you have to make choices… As far as I am concerned, at the moment, we are spending money providing income to people, but not necessarily everybody, to catch up with the rising cost of living,” he explained, giving one example of how the government could aim to reduce costs for the public.

“Imagine if you actually reduced the cost of public transport in Dublin. That would benefit the people who can’t afford a car, it will probably benefit people that are poorer in society and it could be €2 a day. That is a tenner a week, that is almost €50 a month after tax income – it is an awful lot of money for an awful lot of families,” he said.

“What’s different about our politics at the moment is very often we seem to have some parties that seem to believe money grows on trees and that actually there is a cost to these decisions,” Moran said, adding that it is time to call out other parties on their costed budgets, and to explore whether they are actually feasible.

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