NO MORE TAX HIKES, URGES IBEC - IBEC's annual CEO conference is taking place at the Dublin Convention Centre today. Ahead of the conference this morning, the employers' group has called on the Government to bring a halt to tax increases adding that growth is now the key to fixing the public finances. Tax increases had their place due to the pressures on the public finances, IBEC says, but they should now end.

Mr McCoy is also calling on the Government to use some of the savings made from the recent promissory note deal to ease the level of austerity over the next two years. He points out that Ireland has one of the highest marginal tax rates in the OECD. At 52%, it is well above the OECD average of 36%, while it also kicks in at a relatively low income level. He says that tax revenues will rise but they need to to rise along with growth coming back into the economy. Most of the austerity is now behind us and we need consumers to have the confidence to start spending again, he states.

Markus Beyrer, Director of Business Europe, the European Employers Confederation, says that Ireland is definitely a positive example of how a country can redrive the economy and install reforms at the right time. He says that Ireland managed to maintain a very strong corporate base, adding that one of the advantages of the country is that we have a relatively positive perspective on business and so we managed better that other countries to apply the right structural reforms at the correct time. Mr Beyrer said we proved that these reforms led to a recovery, which can be used as a model for other countries. He also says that everyone wants Ireland to succeed and we are watched closely on the European stage.


MORNING BRIEFS - PricewaterhouseCoopers will release their European CEO survey at the conference. It shows that just over a quarter of European bosses are confident about growth in earnings this year, that is down from 30% last year and well below the 36% recorded globally. Looking at threats to future growth prospects, uncertain economic growth is by far the biggest concern among European chief executives with 85% citing it as their biggest fear. Other concerns include shifts in consumer behaviour, over regulation and increasing tax burdens.

*** Ulster Bank parent RBS has reported pre-tax losses of £5.2 billion sterling compared to losses of £1.2 billion in 2011. It has been a year to forget for the UK taxpayer-supported bank which forked out £390m for its role in the Libor interest rate fixing scandal. The bank had already announced that it intends to divert £300m from its staff bonus pot towards paying the fine. Chief executive Stephen Hester said last year he would waive his annual bonus following the bank's IT meltdown. However, he is in line for around £780,000 in shares next month as part of a reward scheme for his performance in 2010, which can be cashed in 12 months later. The bank has also been embroiled in a payment protection insurance mis-selling. It put aside £50m to deal with its computer systems failures which left millions of people without access to their accounts last summer.

*** The number of businesses collapsing is down almost a third on the same month last year, new figures from Vision net show. It continues the positive trend in January when the number of business failures was down just over 20% on the January 2012 figure. 140 businesses collapsed between February 1 and February 25th, the figures show - a 32% decrease in the year. 99 were liquidated, 39 entered receivership and an examiner was appointed to two businesses.