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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Deputy Tom Fleming

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Snippet Contents:

The main function of a budget is to create an environment for job creation and the retention of jobs. It is also to have a balanced and equitable regional spread of jobs and job incentivisation measures. We have failed in this budget as these issues have not been addressed. Giving people their dignity is pivotal in life, to which a job is essential. I do not mean Mickey Mouse stuff such as zero hour contracts. We should strive at all times to give sustainable work and put a roof over people's heads. People need sustenance for themselves and their families.
There is a gradual recovery, but it is still fragile. Full-time sustainable jobs are paramount to the needs of our abundant workforce, but many people are in long-term unemployment and in a situation which seems to be endless and with very few, if any, possibilities of finding something satisfactory. They are demoralised and this has a general effect on their well-being, health and status within their communities. Graduates are faced with a lack of suitable opportunities to participate in the recovery of the country.
Some of our emigrants may wish to return, but they are still sceptical about it and the prospects of eking out a viable livelihood in this country. Vital infrastructure is important, but there is a lack of quality broadband. Whether one is in Toronto, Sydney or Birmingham, a person can at least access Internet services at the press of a button, but people here are bewildered at the state of this vital necessity. It is a major disincentive to return when we should be incentivising them. People see broadband as an entitlement which they have other countries; therefore, the standard of the service here does not entice them to come back in great numbers. We need them to build on the recovery in the short term. Otherwise, we will restrict their options to come back and eke out a living here. Their exodus was followed by a decline in rural Ireland and the entire rural fabric was affected.
There is an urgent need to send the right message to the youth of the country by reinstating the social welfare rate that was payable previously. It was reduced to €100 and needed to be corrected. It is a huge blow to unemployed youth who are a very disaffected cohort. Many of them are well educated and qualified, yet they are forced to live at home for prolonged periods, which is not very desirable. It is not acceptable and leads to internal problems within households when a young person is not independent and cannot make a living on his or her own. It is wrong of the Government not to recognise this and correct it. I plead with the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection to reconsider bringing the rate back to the normal figure to give the young people concerned an adequate opportunity. Those on €100 a week cannot afford to send all of the documentation they are required to send because of the cost of stamping envelopes or getting a taxi to seek work in the next town 15 miles away. Public transport is not available in some places and young people cannot afford to pay for their own transport, unless they use a bicycle to travel the 20 miles they may need to travel to attend a job interview.
Action needs to be taken on the regional property programme and regional action plans. My own peripheral county in the south west has been deprived and neglected for too long. We listen to announcements every day for the large centres of Dublin and Cork city. It is very fortunate for us that Cork city is benefiting from measures and we also gain when Limerick benefits, but we still feel we are the forgotten people and I cannot see anything tangible in the budget to make our situation any better. Lip-service is paid to regional property programmes and action plans and there is a lack of specifics. It would be great if some specific measures were outlined in the budget to target the south west, including County Kerry, or County Donegal or County Waterford with action plans, but it is just smoke and mirrors and will eventually all be forgotten about. I, therefore, urge the Minister to set out a decisive action programme. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of trips the Minister has organised to County Kerry for investors in the past five years. There may have been one or two, but it would be interesting to know what the purpose of the visits was, or if the people involved stayed for a whole day or just two or three hours, following which they left the county again, making it no more than an excuse of a trip.
We need a regional spread of jobs. We are fortunate in having good SMEs in the county, some of which started with five, six or ten jobs, but they now have 100 or more. We have some wonderful examples of firms which have been highly successful because they have a diligent, well qualified workforce. There is an institute of technology in Tralee, with a huge number of graduates coming out every year into the catchment area. We also have students who attend Cork Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology and they want to come back to their own county and communities. Companies such as Killarney Plastics, Fexco, Munster Joinery and Harty's in Causeway are all flagship projects and successful employers.