IFSC lobby group powerful in shaping policy [irishtimes]

A CLEARING House Group is an unusual concept in the world of politics and public life. The Government at its highest official level and all the main players in a particular sector form a body with the ostensible aim of expanding and developing that sector. The body is chaired by the top civil servant in the country. A byproduct is that the sector gets unfettered access to lobby in its own interests.

Unsurprisingly, the homeless or unemployed organisations do not have a Clearing House Group, nor do other sectors such agriculture, tourism, or manufacturing. But the financial services sector does, in the shape of the IFSC Clearing House Group.

The group is chaired by Martin Fraser, the secretary general of Government. The main body and its subcommittees meet in Government Buildings. Civil servants and representatives from State agencies such as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland sit on it. The rest are made up of a who’s who of banking, financial and legal giants: JP Morgan, Citi, State Street, IBF, Barclays, Bank of Ireland, KPMG, Bank of America, Deloitte, AIB, William Fry, Ernst and Young and PWC.

Undoubtedly, there is strong justification for part of its work. Last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveiled a strategic plan to create 10,000 jobs in the IFSC. There are also plans to develop a “Green IFSC” and an Islamic funds sector. That said, a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act this year show the extraordinary influence wielded by the group when it comes to Government policy in two key areas: tax incentives for the industry; and the position adopted on the EU’s proposal to introduce a financial transaction tax (FTT) of 0.1 per cent on stocks and bonds; and 0.01 per cent on derivatives trading.

The IFSC Clearing House Group is chaired by the State's top civil servant and meets in Government Buildings


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