Sinn Féin - On Your Side

It’s time to get Ireland back to work

23 March, 2009

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald MEP, Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD and Cllr. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn who is a board member of InterTradeIreland since 2007 today launched the party's job retention and creation strategy document entitled 'Getting Ireland back to work'. The document contains more than 80 proposals, which Sinn Féin believes are urgently required to retain existing jobs and create new ones, progress all-Ireland economic development, stimulate consumer spending, and maximize the benefits of education and training.

Sinn Féin will be presenting this document to the government and meeting with employers, workers, enterprise boards and groups across the country in the coming weeks to discuss the recommendations in the report. The party will also be publishing a public finance document outlining where we believe revenue can be raised and savings made and what is required in the longer term in relation to how the state raises finance. In addition, we will publish a separate Oireachtas report on the future of farming and fisheries, and we intend to develop a separate set of proposals on the tourism sector, which directly and indirectly employs so many people in this state and last year was responsible for over €6 billion of GDP.

Speaking at the event held in Buswell's Hotel in Dublin Ms McDonald said:

"In January and February 1,000 people lost their jobs every day. Unemployment is spiralling out of control. The government needs a three-year plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. This must include stopping job losses, creating new jobs, keeping people in education and stimulating consumer spending.

"In just over twelve months unemployment has increased by 184,061. The Government's budget last October did nothing to stimulate the economy nor protect and create jobs. As it now stands unemployment figures will far exceed the projected figure of 400,000 by the end of the year. This is a crisis that cannot continue to go unchallenged.

"As a result of the sharp increases in unemployment tax revenue is now €2 billion below estimates while spending on welfare and medical cards is €1.5 billion over budget. VAT receipts are significantly down as families batten down the hatches and are simply afraid to spend.

"We do need taxation reform. We do need efficiencies in our public finance spend. We do need to address wastage. However the government's sole focus on cuts is fundamentally undermining Ireland's economy. The number one priority should be retaining and creating jobs. It should be getting Ireland back to work.

"Ireland is a small open economy. While the economic downturn is a global phenomenon, the situation here is much worse than in other countries due to the poor management of our economy over the last decade.

"One of the key mistakes that the government made was to overinflate the boom by not regulating the banks and the building industry. The same government that over inflated the boom now wants to exacerbate the downturn by taking too much money out of the economy. The government got it wrong in the boom and is now getting it wrong in the downturn.

"Ireland needs a three-year plan to hold on to or create the 1,000 jobs a day that are being lost. This means quickly identifying viable companies that need immediate help, it means identifying where jobs are going to be created over the next 3-5 years and bringing together FÁS, VECs, colleges and universities to upskill the workforce. It means fostering a real innovation culture. And most critically quarterly targets need to be set and delivered.

"The economy can be turned around. Despite the difficulties there are still huge opportunities if the right plan is put in place and real leadership is shown. This is where the government is failing. And realistically the people that got us into this mess are unlikely to be the people to get us out of the problem. Different ideas require different people." ENDS

Key proposals

• Establish a €300 million jobs retention fund to subsidise workers in SMEs struggling to keep on their employees. The fund should be time limited; and should be implemented in conjunction with increased Revenu and Labour Inspectorate.

• Set up a body to actively pre-empt job losses by going to companies
where jobs are in jeopardy to trouble shoot and offer advice, similar to
the functions carried out by the Irish Credit Corporation in the 1980s.

• The National Development Plan's immediate priority should be
providing essential, labour intensive infrastructure. We are calling
for the fast-tracking of the school building programme, expansion of the
national insulation programme to cover 100,000 homes by 2010 and 150,000
in subsequent years and broadband rollout.

• Fast track business start ups - there are two issues - businesses need access to credit and expertise. The banks need to start doing their job and we are calling for a re-deployment of staff within current job creation agencies to set up one-stop enterprise business points. These would bring together funding, expertise and advice for entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses.

• A new Sales Ireland strategy to help Irish firms access export markets and to help Irish firms looking to set up manufacturing businesses with the potential to compete with our largest imports. Currently 90% of exports from the south come from foreign owned multinationals. And foreign owned firms import over 86% of the maternials they use, bypassing Irish firms.

• Establishment within a calendar year of Eolas Glas Eireann, led by Sustainable Energy Ireland, with the core aim of developing Ireland as a world leader in green and alternative energy technologies.

FÁS, the VECs and third level institutions have a combined budget of almost €4billion. They need to have a joined up approach to ensure that we are training people for sectors that will provide jobs in the coming decade.

A rapid reaction price force to be established by the Minister for Enterprise to ensure price reductions are passed onto consumers, particularly in the areas of fuel and retail groceries.

Cost of proposals
The below figures are based on recent government figures and where figures were not available on Sinn Fein's estimates.

Financial implications for 2009
300m 6 months jobs retention fund
100m body to pre-empt job losses
65m broadband
200m schools
100m doubling insulation scheme
100m refurbishing and refitting existing housing stock for social housing
50m ICT for schools
100m economy of scale supports
200m R&D spend fast-tracked
100m retrofitting
200m dedicated business and science parks
200m childcare workers trained
200m CE schemes increased (increase sponsorship and money from current dept. spend)
200m cost of living package, to include ESB, transport and stealth charge reductions
100m increased MABS funding to tackle money lending
Total: 2.215 billion

Cost neutral
Country of origin labelling
Legislation on debt repayment
Use of Irish embassies to help business set up abroad
Sell-by date regulation
Air miles labelling
Eolas Glas Éireann, using existing agencies
Review €4 billion budgets for FÁS and VECs
Increase school leaving age to 17

Policy direction change
Change law on commercial property leasing
Establish state bank - use banks already there and guarantee/recap scheme
One-stop shops - using existing budgets of bodies mentioned
Post-graduate training courses
Examine use of tax credits for MNCs who buy locally
Rethink and simplify existing R&D tax credits
Tackle issue of low patent creation
Allow households to negotiate from high fixed mortgage rates to lower fixed or variable rates
Legislation to ban extortionate money lending
Finance for these proposals will come from three areas; the National
Pension Reserve Fund, borrowing for smart investment and increased taxation.

In addition Sinn Féin argues that entire allocation of capital spend for 2009 must used to ensure key infrastructure is delivered on. Currently €2 billion of the €7.9 billion agreed capital spend is still uncommitted by government departments.

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