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Job creation plan urgently required – Ó Caoláin

29 January, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Speaking during the Dáil debate on the economy this morning Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called for a reduction in VAT, investment in indigenous companies with a focus on Irish exports, the production of a job creation plan and the protection of vital public services.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Taoiseach had much to say about the global causes and effects of the recession in the big bad world on poor little Ireland. He set his sights on the distant horizons of New York and Berlin and Tokyo for the source of all our troubles. And even when he addressed the banking crisis he set his remarks in a worldwide context.

"It was a smokescreen. The Taoiseach said nothing about the sordid clique of property speculators, bankers and politicians in this country whose insatiable greed and gross mismanagement have brought the Irish economy to its knees. Anglo-Irish Bank? Not a mention. The property bubble? Not a word. The fatal reliance of Government on revenue from that property bubble? No acknowledgement whatsoever.

"We are not asking the Government to wear sackcloth and ashes. But a straightforward acknowledgement of what was done wrong would help to instil some confidence in the ability of this Government to give leadership. And more importantly it would be the first step in rebuilding the economy on more secure foundations and in helping to ensure that it serves all the people and not just the privileged in our society.

"We are in the biggest economic crisis in this country since the 1930s. People are hugely concerned about the future. But they are also very angry and I don't think this has been stressed enough. People I meet every day are incensed at what has happened because they know where responsibility lies.

"We have to learn the lessons of those failed policies if we are going to find a way out of this crisis. The Government must prioritise jobs, infrastructure and public services.

"We urgently require is a plan to create jobs in the short and medium term. Jobs are being lost for the simple reason that people do not have money to spend. We can see this in the number of companies going into receivership in both the retail and manufacturing sector. Consumer spending must increase to save these jobs and to start returning revenue to the exchequer in the form of VAT. There needs to be a stimulus package that protects the wages of those on low and medium incomes, reduces VAT and ensures that reductions in oil prices are passed on immediately.

"With unemployment currently standing at 300,000 and thousands of jobs being lost every week, the Government's options for raising revenue will continue to be seriously curtailed unless a strategy can be put in place to put more people in employment, thereby increasing direct revenue returns and lessening the pressure on public resources through social welfare.

"This means developing an export led economy; currently over 90% of exports are from foreign owned companies here, not indigenous companies. Enterprise Ireland, the body tasked with improving our export figures, is in desperate need of an overhaul. The body received over €273 million in funding in 2007, but sponsors just 624 companies. To put this in perspective, from January to June last year, over 8,000 Irish companies applied for new licences.

"In conclusion I stress the need to defend vital public services in health and education. Little has been said about the cuts that have already taken place and that have damaged our health and education systems. These cuts are penalising the less well off, the people being thrown on the dole queue, the people waiting up to 11 weeks to get Jobseekers Allowance, the families struggling to meet medical bills and the older people existing with minimal services. We in Sinn Féin will stand by these people and we will work shoulder to shoulder with others to defend the vital services built up over decades on the basis of the work done and the taxes paid by working people in this country." ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech follows:

The Taoiseach yesterday reverted to his former role as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He had much to say about the global causes and effects of the recession in the big bad world on poor little Ireland. He set his sights on the distant horizons of New York and Berlin and Tokyo for the source of all our troubles. And even when he addressed the banking crisis he set his remarks in a worldwide context.

It was a smokescreen. The Taoiseach said nothing about the sordid clique of property speculators, bankers and politicians in this country whose insatiable greed and gross mismanagement have brought the Irish economy to its knees. Anglo-Irish Bank? Not a mention. The property bubble? Not a word. The fatal reliance of Government on revenue from that property bubble? No acknowledgement whatsoever.

The Taoiseach told us:

"There is little point in looking back at how some of this might have been anticipated or avoided."

There is every point because the lessons of the past must be learned if further disaster is to be avoided. We are not asking the Government to wear sackcloth and ashes. But a straightforward acknowledgement of what was done wrong would help to instil some confidence in the ability of this Government to give leadership. And more importantly it would be the first step in rebuilding the economy on more secure foundations and in helping to ensure that it serves all the people and not just the privileged in our society.

We are in the biggest economic crisis in this country since the 1930s. People are hugely concerned about the future. But they are also very angry and I don't think this has been stressed enough. People I meet every day are incensed at what has happened because they know where responsibility lies.

We have to learn the lessons of those failed policies if we are going to find a way out of this crisis. The Government must prioritise jobs, infrastructure and public services.

We are not seeing a comprehensive strategy for recovery coming from the Government. We are debating the economy over two days without being given right of access, as elected representatives of the people, to the framework document being discussed between Government, unions and employers. We had to wait until it was leaked to the newspapers this morning to see it. That is an insult to the people who elected us.

The framework document is aspirational and vague and all will depend on the details that are filled in over coming weeks and months. But I fear that fundamentally we are seeing from Government a book-keeping approach when what is actually needed is a job-creating approach.

We urgently require is a plan to create jobs in the short and medium term. Jobs are being lost for the simple reason that people do not have money to spend. We can see this in the number of companies going into receivership in both the retail and manufacturing sector. Consumer spending must increase to save these jobs and to start returning revenue to the exchequer in the form of VAT. There needs to be a stimulus package that protects the wages of those on low and medium incomes, reduces VAT and ensures that reductions in oil prices are passed on immediately.

With unemployment currently standing at 300,000 and thousands of jobs being lost every week, the Government's options for raising revenue will continue to be seriously curtailed unless a strategy can be put in place to put more people in employment, thereby increasing direct revenue returns and lessening the pressure on public resources through social welfare.

This means developing an export led economy; currently over 90% of exports are from foreign owned companies here, not indigenous companies. Enterprise Ireland, the body tasked with improving our export figures, is in desperate need of an overhaul. The body received over €273 million in funding in 2007, but sponsors just 624 companies. To put this in perspective, from January to June last year, over 8,000 Irish companies applied for new licences.

Sinn Féin put forward a series of proposals in our pre-budget proposals that would have generated up to €2 billion in revenue and would ensure that those who have the most pay the most - for example, all discretionary tax relief s should only be available at the standard rate of tax and the PRSI ceiling should be removed.

Sinn Féin has proposed a range of other measures including:

· A social housing construction programme to meet the needs of those on local authority waiting lists and to address the dramatic fall in construction employment.

· Fast-tracking of other infrastructure projects. For example where is the network of primary healthcare centres once promised? Where are the childcare facilities? We need improved public transport if we are to attract jobs. Instead we are getting cuts in buses and in jobs.

· A moratorium on home repossessions and a requirement on the financial institutions to negotiate down unaffordable mortgages. This would provide relief for hard-pressed families and allow them to participate in the economy again without the fear of losing their homes.

· A major programme of retraining and reskilling workers, especially those in the construction industry who have seen mass redundancies and many of whom have little or no transferable qualifications.

· The Government stepped in directly to bail out the banks. Why was there no intervention in flagships of Irish industry such as Waterford Glass? Such interventions are required.

· The Government should reverse the giveaway of the massive Corrib gas resources off the Mayo coast. That is worth billions, yet it has been given away to multinationals who have ridden roughshod over the local community. These resources belong by right to the Irish people and we need them now more than ever.

· We need to see aid to indigenous small and medium sized industry on a par with what is provided for foreign direct investors. These industries are anchored in our communities. They need credit and they need help with research, product development and marketing.

· Banking must be first and foremost an essential service for the economy. When that service is destroyed because of the greed of top bankers and the negligence of the Government we get the financial crisis we are now in.

· A State bank should be established to provide credit for economic development and to encourage saving and to utilise capital for productive investment not speculation. Anglo-Irish Bank is not that bank. The economy can no longer rely on a banking system which has been corrupted by the grossly inflated profits of top bankers and shareholders.

I want a properly considered, costed and written response to the ideas presented by Sinn Féin and the other parties in this debate. We don't want a Thatcher-like 'Out!Out!Out!' response.

In conclusion I stress the need to defend vital public services in health and education. Little has been said about the cuts that have already taken place and that have damaged our health and education systems. These cuts are penalising the less well off, the people being thrown on the dole queue, the people waiting up to 11 weeks to get Jobseekers Allowance, the families struggling to meet medical bills and the older people existing with minimal services. We in Sinn Féin will stand by these people and we will work shoulder to shoulder with others to defend the vital services built up over decades on the basis of the work done and the taxes paid by working people in this country.

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