Wealthy Ireland feels like Poor Ireland

Wealthy Ireland feels like Poor Ireland

Public sector unions can rightly be pleased with the 10.25% pay increase that they secured from the Government for their members late last week. Now, one in every three Euro raised in taxes is being spent on public sector pay and pensions.

The Government has, so far, been tight-lipped on long-awaited ‘reforms’ and ‘efficiencies’ that will be delivered by State employees in return for what is a generous pay award.

All too often, whether in education or in health, the public service being delivered is below what is being paid for it. As a caller to a radio programme put it recently, “we live in a very wealthy country, but it feels like we live in a poor country”.

One much-needed area of reform is the spectacle of state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment in hospitals lying idle for 16 hours a day and every weekend because the person who operate the machines only work from nine to five.

Who would be upset at their MRI appointment being scheduled at 7am or indeed 8pm if it means that they got this vital diagnostic scan much quicker than would’ve otherwise been the case?

There is room for a lot more creativity in the provision of public services.

The Government will also do well to take a cautionary pause and think back to the last financial crash that led to the loss of Ireland’s economic sovereignty.

The trauma of that episode is still being felt, but many people think of the trauma of the banking crisis in isolation as if that was the only thing that brought the economy to the point of collapse.

A much under-reported aspect to the financial crisis was the disastrous consequences of a public spending splurge when property-related taxes dried up.

Banking debt from the crash was €64 billion whereas the overall national debt stood at €200 billion, meaning two thirds of the debt was accumulated through mismanagement of exchequer finances, including a huge expansion in public spending.

This time, the Government would do well to embrace the virtue of prudence when it comes to spending to ensure we don’t have a repeat of the misery of the last financial emergency.