Time for a fair recovery

Posted: March 9, 2015 in Economy, Jobs, Recovery, Sinn Féin, Tax

Fine Gael and Labour’s economic recovery is a tale of two Ireland’s.

GDP is rising. Bond yields are falling. Property prices are recovering. Jobs are being created. People are even buying new cars.

According to Michael Noonan ‘austerity as we know it is over.’

Any yet in elections and opinion polls people are punishing the Government.

Are people really that ungrateful? Do they not know the sacrifices the Government has made to get the economic back on track?

Thankfully people aren’t stupid. They are angry with the government because their day to day lives jar with the recovery narrative of the Government. They can see that the benefits of this so called recovery are not being fairly distributed across society.

It is not just that people are not feeling the effects of the so called recovery in their pockets. It is that for the vast majority of people there simply is no recovery.

The latest Quarterly National Household Survey demonstrates the point perfectly.

Government spokespersons highlight the drop in unemployment to 10.4% down 2 points since 2013. They tell us that 80,000 jobs have been created since 2012.

But when you scratch beneath the surface of the report the picture is far less positive.

In 2014 the number of net new jobs was only 29,000, far less impressive than the government’s gross figure.
Importantly these jobs are unevenly distributed both amongst age groups and geographical regions.

14,000 young people dropped out of employment last year. This brings the total to 60,900 since Fine Gael and Labour took office.

An entire generation is being left behind by the Governments so called recovery.

There are almost 10,000 fewer people in employment in the West and South than this time last year while the border regions remained at a standstill. Some counties such as Donegal have unemployment rates at twice the state wide average.

Fine Gael and Labour have not just abandoned young people, they have turned their back on half the country.
And for every new job created since Fine Gael and Labour took office five people have emigrated.

It is also worth remembering that the headline unemployment figure of 10.4% does not include those on labour activation schemes or those underemployed. When these groups are included the broad unemployment level hits 19%.

And then there is the issue of low pay. As the Nevin institute have highlighted far too many of the jobs created under this Government are insecure and poorly paid. The National Women’s Council of Ireland have also highlighted the fact that a disproportionate number of those on low pay are women.

The claim that getting a job is the best route out of poverty is no longer true. Zero hour contracts and low pay at a time of rising prices are the reasons why one in seven working households are at risk of poverty.

Austerity as we know it may be over for Enda Kenny and Joan Burton. But for the majority, particularly for young people, women and those living west of the M50 or west of the Shannon austerity remains a daily reality.

And the reason why is very simple. Fine Gael and Labour are failing to invest in jobs and failing to invest in services.
Instead they are gearing up for the same old auction politics that brought the economy to its knees.

Their promise of income tax cuts in Killarney and Castlebar shows that they have learned nothing from the mistakes made in the 90s and 00s.

In Derry this weekend speaker after speaker at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis outlined a better fairer way to the failed politics and policies of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.

We called for a new model of social and economic development.

Such a model demands a strong and courageous state – investing in secure well paid jobs, universal public services and strong and vibrant communities.

This will require real tax reform to generate the revenues needed for social and economic renewal. Scraping unjust taxes is not enough. Social and economic recovery must be paid for.

This also means rethinking and reshaping the fiscal rules that are currently in our laws and those of the EU.
It means implementing real solutions to our unsustainable public and household debt, reducing both its scale and cost.

It means adopting a new approach to economic policy that is socially equitable and environmentally sustainable.
It means reforming our political institutions and practices, making economic and social policy more democratic, accountable and transparent.

Crucially it demands the ending of poverty and gross inequality.

The next general election will be a defining moment in our country’s history. For the first time in generations people will have a clear choice between the two tier Ireland offered by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour or a better fairer Ireland offered by Sinn Féin.

 

This article first appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 8.3.15

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