Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Troika may be leaving but the mind-set remains

Yesterday the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Finance Committee in the Dáil that the issue of a decision on whether or not the state needed a precautionary credit line following its exit from the bailout was not on the agenda of today’s meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.

This morning an emergency Cabinet meeting was called and the Dáil was given less than an hour to respond to an unspecified statement from the government. Was it going for ‘backstop’, a post-bailout credit line, or was it not? The media was well briefed. The government spin doctors had done their work and had the line before the Taoiseach stood up in the Dáil and told members.

It was all good political theatre. The government constructed a dramatic announcement for its decision to set aside the option of a post bailout credit line. Its PR spin is obvious. It’s all about the government patting itself on the back and claiming that it has regained economic sovereignty and brought an end to the rule of the Troika.

But the truth is much different. It was bounced on the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste by their master in Europe. The government has no strategic plan, stumbles from crisis to crisis and has no long term vision – except that is to impose more austerity policies on a financially exhausted and exasperated citizenry.

The truth is that while the Troika may be leaving, the Troika mind-set remains. The government has over its two and a half years in office slavishly followed the policies of the last Fianna Fáil government and has embraced austerity. It has even gone as far as introducing austerity measures that were not recommended by the Troika.

It has taxed and cut the most vulnerable in Irish society, unbidden by its European masters. It has very specifically and unfairly targeted young unemployed citizens, the elderly, working mothers and those in need of medical cards.

These citizens are being made to carry the can for the economic collapse and the recklessness of bankers, developers and politicians. That is patently unfair.
In the government’s October’s 2014 budget older citizens have been particularly hard hit with cuts to the telephone allowance; the loss of the bereavement grant; the withdrawal of medical cards and cuts to the invalidity pension. That is unfair.
As a result of this and last year’s budget, older citizens will have lost €22.60 per month in the telephone allowance. That is particularly mean-spirited.
The Budget also saw Maternity Benefit cut for the second year in a row. This will adversely affect 90% of women in receipt of Maternity Benefit. Cutting Maternity Benefit is contrary to the interests of women, of children and indeed of Irish society. It is also unfair.

What is equally unfair is the fact that Fine Gael and Labour, just like Fianna Fáil before them, have embraced forced emigration as a policy choice. Already there are 1,700 people emigrating from this state every week. The vast majority of these are young, educated citizens, unable to get suitable employment.
This morning’s announcement makes no positive difference to them or their families and the government’s determination to pursue austerity coupled with its inadequate Youth Guarantee Scheme means that more of our young people will continue to leave for the hope of jobs abroad.

Next year, whether the Troika is here or not, the government will take €2 billion more from the economy in water charges, taxes and more cuts to health, education and other vital services.
On top of that, citizens in this state still subject to the terms of the fiscal treaty, which this government and Fianna Fail pushed the people to support.
For many more years, the Irish people will be forced to carry an unsustainable debt burden, inflicted on us because of the austerity policy Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail embraced to bail out the banks.
The reality is that the government has secured nothing to relieve citizens of this odious debt.
17 months ago the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were proclaiming their achievements at the June 2012 Euro summit. They claimed it was a game changer a seismic shift. Having pumped €65 billion of taxpayers money into bad and toxic banks it was claimed that the European Stability Mechanism would reduce banking debt, separate banking debt from sovereign debt and that it would be retrospective and we would get some of our money back.
None of this has happened.
If we are to begin to regain our economic sovereignty, it will not be under this government. Nor will not be under Fianna Fáil.
This government should go. The only way to rebuild the economy is to make deficit adjustments that are fair and growth friendly. The economy must be stimulated and jobs created if recovery is to be sustainable. The banking debt is a noose around the neck of the people. It must be restructured and reduced.
We are leaving the bailout programme but we cannot get away from the legacy and the damage caused by austerity. Our public services are decimated and families across the state are in poverty. The government and especially the Labour party should be ashamed of this.

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