SINCE Fianna Fáil collapsed the economy in 2008, this state has shed more jobs per capita than any other Western country since the Great Depression. A look at unemployment and emigration figures shows the severe human cost of the failed policies of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party – 460,000 on the live register and devastating levels of emigration. In the last three years, more than 200,000 people have emigrated – 87,000 in 2011, 81,500 in 2010 and tens of thousands have already left in 2012. Nine people are leaving our shores every hour. Many others are trapped in negative equity – unable to pay their debts and no prospect of getting work in this country in the near future. The domestic economy is in tatters with thousands of small and medium businesses going to the wall and many others struggling to survive. Government debt now stands at €169billion, an increase of 17% on 2010. The failure by successive governments to manage the economy, to plan for the challenges ahead and to properly regulate the property market and banking sector has left us where we are today. It doesn’t have to be this way.
One of the fundamental problems is that the Fine Gael/Labour Government have no clear vision for the future of the economy. They are abdicating their responsibilities and allowing decisions to be taken by the EU and IMF. Their economic policy has been reduced to keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for a worldwide economic revival – standing idly by while another generation leaves for the US, Canada and Australia. This isn’t good enough. The old policies and the old approaches are not working. New thinking, new policies and a new economic programme are required. And notwithstanding the huge economic challenges and loss of sovereignty, there are still political choices to be made to allow us to move out of recession. The first step is for the Government to accept what every serious economist in the world is now saying – you cannot cut your way out of recession. Secondly, they need to address the unsustainable debt crisis. Thirdly, and most mportantly, they need a serious plan to get Ireland back to work.
Sinn Féin has produced this document, Investing in Ireland’s future: Create jobs – Create growth, to set out exactly how we would use a major stimulus package to boost employment, increase GDP and further reduce the government deficit. In November 2012, Sinn Féin will also publish a fully-costed pre-Budget submission which will set out the growth-friendly fiscal measures we propose to reduce the deficit in a fair and equitable manner and ensure those on low and middle incomes are protected.It’s time to make different political choices.
Create jobs – Create growth
» Sinn Féin is proposing almost €13billion additional investment in job creation and economic growth over four years.
» This would create an average of 156,000 jobs (short-term and long-term, according to the ESRI) and retain up to 15,000 jobs.
» This would be funded from €5.8billion in discretionary funding in the National Pension Reserve Fund, €1.534billion from the European Investment Bank, €3billion incentivised investment from the private pension sector and we would not cut the €2.6billion which the Government will cut from its capital budget spend.
» Our jobs plan will invest in essential infrastructure which will create jobs, improve competitiveness and help kick-start the economy; help entrepreneurs by removing obstacles to doing business and supporting them to retain and create new jobs; exploit the potential of existing and new state enterprises, particularly in broadband roll-out, renewable energy and eco-tourism; and invest in agri-food and rural communities.
Invest in essential infrastructure
» Revive the sugar beet industry and construct a new bio-refinery plant in the South- East with the potential to create 5,000 jobs (Cost: €350million).
» Broadband – Invest €2.5billion in the roll-out of next generation broadband across the 26 Counties.
» Sequence investment in water infrastructure (currently 43% of water is wasted through leaks) with an initial investment of €500million.
» Proceed with the A5 dual carriageway and open up the North-West for real investment.
» Regenerate the Cork dockland area. This will see the building of the two gateway bridges, necessary road infrastructure, flood defence, district heating, public areas, education facilities and water supply – as outlined by the Engineers Ireland report on the dockland area, 2009 (Cost: €600million).
» Escalate the regeneration projects in Limerick and Dublin. Over four years we will invest €960million towards completing the various regeneration projects in the two counties (Cost: €960 million).
» Build an additional 100 schools at a cost of €300 million and refurbish 75 more at a cost of €50 million over the next 3 years on top of current capital commitments (Cost: €350million).
» 50 new Primary Health Care Centres. At the start of the last decade, the plan was to build 200 primary care centres across the state. Up to last year, only 32 centres had been completed and were in operation, despite the concept of local healthcare being at the heart of healthcare strategies (Cost: €250 million).
Help entrepreneurs to create new jobs
» Job retention – Introduce a job retention scheme at a cost of €100million to protect 15,000 jobs for one year, with the potential to continue the scheme.
» State procurement – Open up state procurement to small companies. In 2011, €13.1billion was spent on public procurement (estimates from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform).
» PRSI for Self-employed – Self-employed people should be given the option of paying PRSI at the same level as PAYE workers in order to receive the same entitlements in the event that they become unemployed.
» Abolish upward-only rents. Upward-only rent review leases are one of the leading problems for businesses.
» Cap utility costs for a period of 3 years.
» Provide a temporary rebate on fuel for transport firms.
» Prompt payments – Prioritise the review of the prompt payments legislation and ensure the 15-day rule is adhered to by state agencies.
» Examine the use of tax credits for multinational corporations which source Irish produced materials as opposed to importing.
» Tackle the costs of doing business on the Border, including credit card transaction fees, telecommunication charges and dual tax and payroll systems.
Exploit the potential of existing and new state enterprises
» The ESB, Bord Gáis and Coillte to work together to roll-out comprehensive highend broadband coverage. The ESB already owns a 1,300km national fibre optic network, Aurora Telecom is a Bord Gáis Enterprise company established in 2000 specialising in fibre optic network services, and Coillte also has 220 mast sites and 100 new rural broadband sites.
» Develop Coillte’s role in eco-tourism. With 10 forest parks and over 150 recreation sites, Coillte is the leading provider of outdoor recreation in Ireland with an estimated 18million visits to forests under its management each year.
» €1billion investment in wind power industry and wave energy. It is estimated that this industry has the capacity to create 50,000 jobs over 15 years and we would explore how this can be done in a community-friendly fashion.
Invest in agri-food and rural communities
» Development of the agri-food sector, including the establishment of a forum of all supermarket suppliers and members of each producer organisation who subsequently set up a working committee of each representative group/sub-sector to negotiate a fair trading regime on behalf of suppliers.
» Re-establishment of a bio-refinery plant in the South-East, which would produce sugar as well as ethanol from beet and grain again. The estimated cost for this project is €350million with the potential to create 5,000 jobs.
» A proactive approach to establishing co-ops to aid job creation in rural communities, including the creation of tax incentives for co-operatives that create employment in rural or disadvantaged areas and making vacant IDA, Údarás and other public bodies’ premises available for co-op use.
» Tackling the misuse of ‘Irish’ branding – Initiate a campaign to urge the food catering industry to use domestic suppliers and increased monitoring of ‘Irish goods’ labeling (there is mounting evidence that the ‘Ireland’ brand is being mis-sold to confuse consumers who want to buy Irish).
» Review the current sell-by date regulations which allow importers to avail of the same sell-by date as domestic producers even though they are in the market longer, after including the import process. We would also explore the introduction of air miles labeling for all imports.
Major overhaul of enterprise policy
» Set regional job creation targets – To address the clear imbalance in job creation there should be regional and sub-regional job creation targets set out for Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and other enterprise support agencies.
» Amalgamate job creation bodies – Amalgamate Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, County Enterprise Boards and partnerships into a new organisation called All-Ireland Enterprise