Austerity must be from the top down

“Provided you explain to people what you’re doing, provided that it’s seen to be fair, and in the greater interest of everybody and the country, we’re are prepared to take on that challenge and sort it out because the prize at the end is greater for everybody” - Enda Kenny

The coming Budget on December 5 is proposed to be the most severe ever imposed on the Irish people and the effect it will have on Government services Insider can only imagine.

The whole reason for this severe Budget is that the Celtic Tiger years were built on a foundation of sand, of that there can be no doubt. The truth is we can no longer afford the services we took for granted in these years. Where will the money come from if there is no improvement in the world economy? We cannot keep borrowing.

While every political party believes in free third level education, the State just does not have the money for it at present. The best thing to do would be to ensure those who cannot afford it and have reached the standard required are not turned away.

The richest countries in the world such as Australia and Canada do not have free third level, although they do have other great social backups when it comes to health and primary level education.

It is interesting that both Poland and Portugal have now decided not to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest because they cannot afford it. RTÉ executives will be praying to the God of Broadcasting or the patron saint of Communications - St Gabriel the Archangel - that we will not win. Gabriel was an Archangel, not a saint, so he may have much more influence. A win would cost the national broadcaster a year’s budget if it has to host the 2014 Eurovision.

However hard times should not mean we cannot have some good times. It just means that each of us needs to be a lot cleverer on how we spend our money. We all need a bit of comic relief in these devastating economic times so we do need to go with our friends or relatives for a night out for a meal or a drink, even it is only a toasted sandwich or a coffee.

It also does not mean we should not send Christmas cards, but it does mean we have to be more picky about who we send them too. It also means shopping around for bargains.

All your decorations will ironically be made in China. China has very few Christians, being a Communist county. Maybe this year we could try to boost the home economy by sourcing out more Irish made Christmas goods. We should all take the time to check out where these goods are manufactured.

In the Tiger years, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was Ireland’s Santa Claus. There was no limit to the money he dished out. Many projects which have yet or to or may never see the light of day - the Bertie Bowl, the National Children’s Hospital - have cost the State millions.

We are all paying the price for this buying of elections which occurred during those years. Maybe the getting rid of household rates way back in the 1970s by Jack Lynch was the beginning of this type of electioneering.

There is no doubt that the after the Boom Years we are left with very little to show. The reason being this is the boom was result of massive gambling funded by banks which found collaboration with money hungry developers.

Both Labour and Fianna Gael are getting the blame for the public service cuts but the media and some members of the public are suffering for temporary amnesia as to who brought our buoyant economy to this state.

It was Bertie’s ‘Bench Marking’ which added all sorts of expenses to TDs and higher civil servants wages. Local council executives got bonuses which were equivalent to a year’s wages for many a working person. A&L Goodbody was the company given this task in evaluating the work done by politician and their salaries. This independent body recommended that a TDs wages would be linked with higher grade civil servants. This means that TD’s wages could be protected by the Croke Park Agreement!

How independent can any such body be in a small State of more than four million? If you pay someone to see if you need more wages of course they are going to say ‘Yes’. The fact is that civil servant pensions are paid out of the day to day government expenditure and this is now a major headache for the Government.

A&A Goodbody did not take this into account and that after every boom there is a bust. That has always been the nature of things. Government civil service pensions are based on the wages of the civil servants. This means civil service pensions are now at an unsustainable level.

Public service pensions payouts are the giant snowball coming down the road with the depletion of the National Pension Reserve. It is compounded by the big drop in taxable income due to high unemployment figures.

This Insider has not forgot...the spend, spend, spend policy of the Fianna Fáil/PD governments but it does seem that the public have - Fianna Fáil is on the rise again in the Red C Polls. As in the case of the Prodigal Son all is forgiven.

Has Micheál Martin given Fianna Fáil a new squeaky clean image? “It is/was a world economic crisis one cannot blame Fianna Fáil/PD Government" is the new mantra. Brian Cowen tried the same line back in 2008 and nobody believed him. The funny thing is that people are beginning to believe it now!

The State is in a mess all right but it is not the Fine Gael/Labour government’s making! As the boom was virtual we will not be going back to it. What we can hope for is that we will be able to get the banks to start lending so jobs can be created - real jobs not ‘makey uppy’ ones which will only be a waste of money in the long run.

It is important to state that all austerity must be from the top down. The vulnerable like the very young, the sick, and the elderly must not be the ones to take the big hit in next month’s Budget. Example must come from the Government, bank officials, high ranking civil servants, and the well paid union bosses who represent them. Only then Christmas can be celebrated with an atmosphere of equality. Have a Merry Christmas if you can!


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