AS I SEE IT
What would you do if you had a huge financial bonanza fall into your lap? When it comes to big wins I think individuals are likely to behave in one of three ways. There are splurgers who spend the whole lot in one fell swoop before anyone else can get their hands on the money. There are squirrels who store the loot away against a rainy day and there are people in between who can cope with a bit of deferred gratification but want to have some fun too.
I’m in the latter category and, when imagining how the Government might spend the massive windfall in corporation tax of € 37 Bn from 2022-25 with more to come, I tend – as you do – to apply my own spending philosophy. I like the advice to Lotto winners to give themselves an initial treat to celebrate the win.
My treat would be to appoint a new Minister of Transport, taking the portfolio away from Eamon Ryan. The man is overburdened dealing with climate change and bicycle-riding urbanites don’t get the needs of commuters and rural communities who want not only decent public transport but proper park and ride facilities so they don’t have to bring cars into cities.
Then I would do my squirrelling. I like Michal McGrath’s plan to copy Norway and to have a sovereign wealth fund to deal with future contingencies. The number of people over 65 is set to double by 2051 and the ratio of employed people to retired folk will halve by then and the cost of pensions and health care is set to soar. Letting elders continue to work if they wish to would help too rather than driving everyone off the retirement cliff like lemmings at 66. Paying off part of a loan makes sense when it comes to Ireland’s national debt of €226 billion where the interest rate at 2.5% is the highest it has been since 2014.,.
My next step would be to fix the house. There’s a saying “ if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” but, where the Coalition is concerned, it is broke and they don’t succeed in fixing it because the tools they are using don’t work, especially when it comes to the big three housing, health and refugees. Take the planning process which is mired in red tape, creating a log jam in the housing crisis. The regulations need to be streamlined, local planning authorities seem more interested in refusing than granting permissions and staff numbers at an Bord Pleanala, where the number of applications processed has halved, need boosting.
Why not use wise heads in the construction industry to come up with imaginative solutions, like recruiting overseas workers to solve skill shortages or prefab housing construction? People want their own front doors, these don’t have to be attached to homes costing upwards of a third of a million, an average new home is now € 359,000 up 9% on last year
Our health system is sick, it needs surgery to recover. After weeks observing the system during my late husband’s illness I saw doctors and nurses working heroically but hampered by inefficient management. The HSE needs a management transplant to make the system fit for purpose for a public who are sick to death of long waits for treatment and time on trolleys.
Talking of treatment, we need of dose of realism when it comes to the refugee crisis. Taking in around 80,000 Ukrainian refugees has been the right thing to do but it has endorsed our image of Ireland of the welcomes. There is a limit to the numbers of asylum seekers we can take in and we are in danger of being seen as a soft touch. The system for dealing with migrants needs an overhaul, with a stricter, faster admissions system and a realistic integration approach for a smaller number of genuine applicants. Dumping large numbers of single, unemployed men and leaving them in limbo for six months or more in small or deprived communities is asking for trouble and obscures the fact that we need new citizens who contribute culturally and economically. We need for teams to deal with communication with communities and to help arrivals with integration, training and involvement in local activities like sport and volunteering.
Spending a relatively modest amount on fixing these tools could make a big difference. Carrying on as they are is like that definition of madness, doing the same thing and expecting a different result.