Today in the pressThursday 14 August 2014 10.55
TOLL FIRMS PAID €28m TO COMPENSATE FOR LACK OF TRAFFIC - Private toll companies have been paid €28m by the State to compensate them for less-than-anticipated traffic on two motorways.
The sum is a result of so-called "traffic guarantee" clauses inserted in the contracts for building the stretch of the M3 from Clonee to Kells and the N7 Limerick Tunnel, writes the Irish Independent. The clauses mean the State pays more to the motorway operators when fewer cars or trucks use the roads. According to an internal Department of Transport briefing document, the guarantees were introduced to address the worst case scenario of "what if no cars drive on the road" and were needed to attract bidders for the public private partnerships. The document states €9.4m in payments have been made under the clause in respect of the M3 toll road, operated by Eurolink Motorway Operation (M3) Ltd, since 2011. This includes just over €3m for this year. A further €19.5m has been paid out in connection with the N7 Limerick Tunnel, operated by Directroute (Limerick) Ltd, of which €5.9m relates to 2014. The traffic guarantees are set to remain in place until 2041. Earlier this year, former transport minister Leo Varadkar admitted the agreements had been "a bad deal".
INVESTEC TALKS UP IRISH RECOVERY - The interest rate connected to Government debt is expected to decline further before the end of this year, as the country continues to distance itself from periphery eurozone nations. In its latest economic outlook on Ireland, specialist bank Investec yesterday offered a broadly upbeat picture for the next few years, says the Irish Examiner. Investec stated that unemployment will continue to fall, GDP will continue to rise, the country’s budget deficit will keep narrowing and consumer spending will gradually pick-up. While a little more sober in its outlook for headline economic growth than some, Investec still feels confident that GDP will grow 2.5% this year and roughly the same for the next two years. GNP, which excludes the economic contribution of multinationals, should grow just under 3% this year and next. Boosted by a likely much less austere Budget in October, consumer spending should show a sustained return to growth this year, gradually building to a level of 2% annual growth in the coming two years. While the proportion of the live register which is classified as “long-term unemployed” remains “worryingly high”, Investec still envisages the country’s headline unemployment rate continuing its steady annual decline - falling from 13.1% to 11.4% by the end of this year and then reducing to 10% next year and as low as 8.8% by the end of 2016.
APPLE WORKFORCE MOSTLY WHITE AND MALE - Similar to other Silicon Valley tech companies, Apple has a workforce that is composed mostly of men, and most of them are white. The company this week published statistics on the makeup of its workforce of 98,000 employees in terms of race, ethnicity and sex, says the Irish Times. It said 30% of its employees worldwide were women. In the US, where Apple is based, 55% of the employees are white, 15% are Asian, 11% are Hispanic and only 7 per cent are black. Apple joins a number of American firms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, that have recently released so-called diversity reports in response to pressure from the civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse L Jackson, who has called on tech companies to release this data about their workforces. Apple’s report shows it is slightly more diverse than other tech giants, at least in terms of ethnicity. Apple’s percentage of white American workers (55%) is lower than Google’s (61%), Twitter’s (59%) and Facebook’s (57%). Apple published a letter from its chief executive, Tim Cook, alongside its diversity report. Mr Cook noted that Apple’s definition of diversity goes beyond ethnicity and gender and includes other personal qualities like sexual orientation, disabilities or veteran status.
G4S UNDER FIRE FOR TAKING £70m CONTRACT TO SERVICE GUANTANAMO BAY - The British security company G4S has been condemned after winning a £70 million contract to service America’s Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which contains the notorious prison for terrorism suspects. As part of the contract the world’s largest security firm is to provide janitorial services to the Cuban prison, which currently houses 149 inmates who have not been charged with any offence says the London Independent. Most of the firm’s responsibilities will involve “base operating services” at Guantanamo such as housing and facilities for soldiers and their families, according to a bulletin issued by the US Department of Defense. It will not be providing prison staff or operating cells. Human rights groups have condemned the move. The $118m (£70.6m) contract was awarded to G4S Government Solutions, a US offshoot of G4S based in Florida which the company is in the process of selling off.