Yesterday and today there have been Statements on the Economy in the Dáil. It is a device which is used occasionally to allow the Dáil parties and members to speak on an issue of concern.
I had ten minutes early this afternoon to make my contribution:
"Last month the Central Statistics Office produced new emigration figures for this state which revealed that 87,000 people had moved to Australia and Canada and other far corners of the globe.
There is no work at home.
Currently 435,000 citizens are on the live register. That’s 14.8%. And government policies are making the situation worse – not better.
In my own constituency of Louth 17,293 were on the Live Register at the end of September.
These figures have remained stubbornly consistent in the 18 months the Government has been in office.
The only thing that has prevented these figures increasing has been the old social safety valve of emigration.
In addition thousands of home owners are trapped in negative equity; poverty is increasing and government debt now stands at €169 billion or 120% of GDP.
That’s a completely unsustainable level despite the Taoiseach’s reluctance to admit this.
Fine Gael and Labour are committed to an austerity strategy which is pushing up unemployment and driving down the quality of life of families.
The Government have slavishly followed the programme of austerity and cuts which was set out by Fianna Fáil in their Four Year Plan in November 2010.
Domestic Demand is on the floor as a result of the introduction of a succession of punitive measures that have reduced wages, child benefit payments, disability payments and social welfare; and attacked social provisions for carers, older citizens, and the blind.
In addition a range of stealth taxes, including the Household charge; the universal social charge; VAT increases; septic tank charges and more have eaten dramatically into the incomes of families.
There are dreadful social consequences as well as economic consequences to the Government’s austerity programme.
The elderly have been hard hit by this Government through the closure of public nursing homes and the slashing of Home Help Hours.
There is an 80 year old partially sighted woman living just outside Drogheda who recently had a hip replacement operation.
Consequently she has limited mobility.
The Health Service Executive allocated her a home help package of 30 minutes a week!
Last Thursday I met with older citizens outside the Dáil who were there with the group ‘Older & Bolder’, which is an NGO committed to defending the rights of the elderly.
They were lobbying for the immediate reversal of government cuts to Home Help and Home Care Packages.
Many of those participating were older citizens dependent on their home help service and worried and angry and distressed at the government’s plans.
Austerity is not working. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have realised this.
When will the Government?
Sinn Fein has consistently said that you cannot cut your way out of recession.
Next month we will bring forward our own fully costed alternative Budget setting out our view of how the deficit should be closed as we have done in each year since this crisis began.
Sinn Fein has also produced an alternative jobs creation strategy which I have sent to the Taoiseach.
This detailed plan will provide a socially responsible way to reduce the budget deficit while creating and retaining jobs.
It calls for an investment of €13 billion into job creation and retention, which will create an average of 156,000 short and long term jobs.
The money is there; in the National Pension Reserve Fund, the European Pension Bank and in the private pension sector.
This is not rocket science.
Our stimulus plan contains:
- Plans to build an additional 100 schools and refurbish 75 more over the next three years (€350 million);
- establish 50 new Primary Health Care Centres (€250 million);
- and develop an €1billion investment in sustainable wind power and wave energy.
We have a plan to Invest in the rollout of next generation broadband across the 26 counties. (€2.5 billion)
This is vital to attract business into our communities.
In my own constituency of Louth there are rural parts of the constituency where there is no access to broadband.
This state ranks 17 out of 27 on the European league table of broad band access so we have some ground to make up in this regard.
These and other projects are set out in detail in the document and I invite the Government to take on board out ideas.
Politics is about choices.
Rather than invest money in jobs stimulus the Government have instead frittered away the money that was in the National Pension Reserve into Bank Bailouts and payments to unguaranteed bondholders.
Fine Gael and Labour have shown no strategic vision of how to invest the money in the NPRF in a way that can help the economy in the long term.
The Government record on Jobs, like that of Fianna Fáil before them is appalling.
Fine Gael’s manifesto promised that their NewERA plan would invest an extra €7 billion in energy, communications and water to give Ireland the world class infrastructure
There was to be a Jobs Budget within 100 days of the Government being established but this was watered down to a Jobs initiative in May 2011.
In February of 2012, after a year in office the Government unveiled an Action Plan for Jobs.
At its launch the Taoiseach said it would create an additional 100,000 jobs.
There has been a loss of 33,000 in the last year.
The Labour Party promised before the election that it would put in place a €500 million jobs fund to support new ideas and create employment in strategic sectors of the economy.
They promised to establish a strategic investment bank, with a lending capacity of €2 billion, from the National Pension Reserve Fund.
None of this happened. And then there was the Strategic Investment Fund unveiled in September 2011.
It was to provide funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund for investment in the economy, provide capital for small and medium enterprises and the creation of jobs.
The legislation required for the Fund hasn’t been published and the Government haven’t been able to give any indication as to when this would be brought forward.
The Government have failed to deliver the promised 60,000 additional places for Education and Training.
The Government is on the wrong track, its continuing the failed policies of Fianna Fáil.
I encourage the Government to look at seriously at the alternatives that Sinn Fein have set out in our Jobs Proposals and which we will set out in our alternative budget.