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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Snippet Contents:

I have noticed in many of the Minister's public pronouncements of late that he attempts to make a virtue, as he sees it, of increased and ahead-of-profile tax returns while keeping a firm reign on public expenditure. The Minister paints this position as one that reflects prudence in his governance. Listening to him, one would never believe he was a Minister in a Government that had hacked billions of euro from public services during its time in office. I suggest that rather than boasting that he will continue to starve public services of the resources they need to repair some of the damage inflicted by the Government and modernise and improve access to and the quality of these services, he would be better off arguing for progressive investment. Instead, he toes the quintessentially right-wing, Tory and Fine Gael Party line of small government and low public expenditure. He appears to subscribe fully to the ideology of private wealth and public squalor pursued by Fine Gael, the Labour Party's sister party.
The Supplementary Estimates reflect some of the reality of underinvestment and low spending. The allocation for health is the figure that jumps out most. While Sinn Féin has no objection to additional moneys being provided for the health services where they are needed, one must wonder why, year after year, the Government takes at least two bites out of the health cherry to get the spending profile right. Even with an additional €600 million, the health system will continue to creak and come under pressure. Hospitals will continue to be understaffed and patients, including many elderly people, will continue to wait on trolleys. Those who are not so lucky will sleep on chairs, and when things get really bad, some of them will sleep on the floors of accident and emergency departments.
I always have the sense when the Minister presents figures that it is being done for the optics. While he spins out substantial figures, the reality is that he continues to preside over a system that is massively underfunded. If recent indicators or public positions adopted by the Minister are anything to go by, it appears he hopes and intends to proceed into the next election and Government, if he is so lucky, with the same guiding principles he has demonstrated over the past five years, namely, to look after the haves, deal in a tokenistic fashion with the have-nots and place public services under enormous and unsustainable pressure.
From next year onwards, the Government will no longer have available to it the facility of introducing Supplementary Estimates. I have not heard a convincing answer from the Minister or any other member of the Government how this will work out. I foresee difficulties, however, because the Government's record on forecasting and getting the numbers right is not a terribly good one. If the Minister has an opportunity to respond, I ask him to sketch out how health, social protection and education services will be able to stand on their feet and have the budgets they require to function in the absence of the release valve of the Supplementary Estimate.