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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Snippet Contents:

It sets out no service standards to be achieved and has no sense of what the bigger picture is.  All major projects involve completing plans made by previous Governments. Fine Gael’s decade old commitment to compulsory health insurance is a shambles which the party’s Ministers and backbenchers are now too embarrassed to talk about. The Government is even trying to change the language around it. Other than that, all we have seen is public relations initiatives.  Many publicly funded bodies have been closed down in order to be reopened and renamed by Ministers. Basic everyday activities have been rebranded and public servants put under orders not to allow anything to happen without a Minister present to announce it.  In fact, the entire machinery of government which should be focused on anticipating and addressing real problems has become dominated by ministerial obsessions with public relations. This has shown itself particularly strongly in the enterprise sector, where announcements which used to be seen as run-of-the-mill are now held up until the right branding is produced and half the Cabinet can attend.
One of the biggest components of the Government’s economic fairy tale is that it claims to have "delivered" or "created" tens of thousands of jobs.  In the first weeks of his Administration, the Taoiseach signalled his intention in this regard by demanding that salary caps be lifted in order that Fine Gael’s most senior press officer could be placed in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with a special brief to relentlessly sell the Action Plan for Jobs as the source of all new jobs. The fact is that the OECD reviewed the Action Plan for Jobs and stated it was impossible to show that it had created extra employment and that the bulk of employment growth was, undoubtedly, down to other economic fundamentals.  In fact, there are elements of the action plan which actually represent reduced activity and, therefore, lost jobs.  This is, for example, the position in the case of research, where a major exodus of scientists has been under way, although it has not stopped the Action Plan for Jobs road show.
In IDA Ireland’s 66 years, it has never had such a clamour from the Government to make a media event out of every announcement.  Once again, the core long-term strength of a State agency and policy is undermined by the focus of political spin.  Even during the worst years of the crisis, inward investment continued and was resilient.  The export sector performed strongly and led the return to growth to the point where Government policies were suppressing domestic demand.
The action plan also introduced a policy now common in all Government actions of renaming existing activity in order to claim something new.  The most cynical example of this was the closing of the county enterprise boards and their rapid reopening with a new name. Job growth has been and will remain strong in the medium term. However, this is where the real force of the two-tiered recovery is being felt.  A drift towards almost separate labour forces is under way, where one has access to highly paid, secure jobs, while the other is caught in low-paid and insecure jobs. It took three years before the Government even admitted this was happening.  In spite of lots of inflated claims, yesterday there was no indication of a genuine commitment to address it. In addition to the banning of exploitative contracts, we need an all-out effort to stop people from getting caught in low-paid, low-security jobs.
We can talk about talent and having to reduce the marginal tax rate. There is a lot of talent.