From Socialist Voice, February 2011

Selling the family jewels


The EU-IMF “Programme for Ireland” calls for drawing up an inventory of all state assets as a precursor to a bargain-basement sale of those assets by the state in its efforts to meet debt repayment requirements under the draconian terms laid out in that agreement.
     One of the assets to be sold off is Coillte, the national forestry agency, which owns 7 per cent of the land of the Republic. Coillte was valued by the Department of Finance as having a net value of more than €1.2 billion and as one of the most valuable state assets. (This is not the value of the trees but of the land on which they are planted.)
     At the end of January, Coillte requested tenders to be submitted on the “Evaluation of the Public Goods Value on the Coillte Forest Estate.” On its web site it it invites tenders from suitably qualified economists “to provide an economic evaluation of the public goods provided by its forest estate of 445,000ha throughout Ireland.”
     Part of the tender they want values put on are:
     “—An estimate of the aggregate economic value of the forest Landscape.
     “—An estimate of the aggregate economic value of Biodiversity enhancement and nature conservation particularly on some 88,000ha of forest estate managed primarily for biodiversity enhancement and nature conservation but also to a lesser extent on the remaining 357,000ha of the forest estate.
     —An estimate of the aggregate economic value of the protection and management of some 1,600 Recorded Monuments and Protected Structures, along with many thousands more of cultural features throughout the forest estate.”

     “Interest has been expressed” by the Swiss finance company Helvetia Wealth, which owns the International Forestry Fund, chaired by Bertie Ahern, the disgraced former Taoiseach. The other interested party is the China Investment Corporation.
     The evaluation of state assets is being carried out by Colm McCarthy for his second report. His terms of reference are very clear: to put a value on state assets for the purposes of their disposal, so that the state could garner one-off receipts for the exchequer through a “review of the operations of Coillte with a view to realising optimal return through rationalisation, asset disposal and, possibly, privatisation.”
[EMC]

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