Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Summer Economic Statement: Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Photo of Mairead FarrellMairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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I have one more question, but I will comment on that response. I hope Housing for All is ambitious and that I will be shocked when I see it and that it will be positive. The reality is that people are desperate. We had a situation Galway city where, for six-year period, not a single house was built by Government. I am aware that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath’s party was not in government at that time but the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe’s party was. People are in despair, so we need to tackle this. The difference of €800 million has not given me great hope. I will obviously take a look at it when it is published. I sincerely hope it will address it this issue.

The other thing I noted was in the foreword to the summer economic statement. It noted that the corporation tax policy may be a less powerful tool in winning new investment and as such there will need to be a refocusing on cost competitiveness. That particular phrase “cost competitiveness” sprung out at me. What does the Minister mean by this? Obviously, because we are in the eurozone, we cannot change interest rates to boost competitiveness and we cannot devalue our currency. I do not suggest that we should; I am just stating the reality. Can the Minister clarify what he means by “cost competitiveness”? I hope it is not a suggestion in regard to labour costs because that would mean that the focus would be on internal devaluation as in the wake of the last crisis. That could mean lowering wages to increase our attractiveness as an export platform. We have just discussed housing crisis. It is not as if people's outgoings are decreasing. I would like to know what that “cost competitiveness” means.