Opening Bell: State lands to go private, Dublin consumer caution, Irish relief at Trump tax plan

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State-owned land is being opened up for development in a bid to ease the housing crisis.

According to the Irish Independent, more than 800 sites owned by local authorities and public bodies will be offered to the private market with the hopes of seeing 50,000 homes built on them.

The newspaper reports that lands at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, Dublin; Department of Defence lands in Mullingar, Westmeath; and Galway port are all under consideration.

It is believed four sites in Dublin alone could provide a total of 3,000 homes if the plan is successful.

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Consumers outside of Dublin are spending more at the moment.

The latest KBC consumer sentiment index shows that there's been an increase in confidence across the country in the first quarter of 2017, reflecting an improvement in household finances.

Dubliners are slightly more cautious with their spending, suggesting they are more concerned about issues like Brexit, the slowdown in job growth and the ongoing problems with the property market.

Austin Hughes, KBC chief economist, said:

"Consumers are happy that there are a few more jobs to be had, that there's more money coming from government spending programmes and as a result they're maybe a little more willing to spend at this time.

"It doesn't mean they're blind to the economic risks in the current environment but they are seeing important counter weights in the form of stronger employment growth and a little more support from government policy."

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The CSO has reported that just over 10% of Irish workers are now making minimum wage or below.

Micheál Collins of the Living Wage Technical Group has argued that there is still too many people making too little to live on.

His group wants to boost the minimum wage of €9.25 to a living wage of €11.50 an hour.

Collins said:

"It doesn't include a Sky Box! It, for example, it includes three eggs a week just to get the nutritional side of things.

"So it's a pretty basic standard of living, there aren't luxuries as part of it, you really are going above €11.50 per hour working full-time before you can go into luxury territory."

"You might as well close down 30% of small businesses right across the country.
"In our sector, we definitely would see the vast majority of rural businesses close if you were to introduce a living wage of €11.50."

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Irish businesses are being reassured over the new tax plan launched this week by US President Donald Trump.

He has pledged to reduce its corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, as part of a bid to encourage American companies to keep their operations at home.

IBEC's Fergal O'Brien says that could provide some competitive pressure for Ireland but that it could have been worse:

"It's probably not as significant as many people would have thought in advance. In particular from an Irish perspective, it's really positive that the US has not proceeded with plans for a border adjustment tax. That essentially would have been a levy and a tax on Irish exports into the US and I think that would have been our main concern."