Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

2:25 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour) | Oireachtas source

The Minister for Finance's policies on the budget and the economy are not common sense. He has argued that it is common sense for Ireland to not spend as much money as is available to us and is permitted under the very strict European rules that we helped put in place. I said previously that we do need to manage and reduce the national debt. The most sensible way to do that is to expand the economy, as with a growing economy, the debt would become proportionately lower.

It is occurring now that the economy is back on its feet and is growing again. That is how we overcame the crises in the 1990s. This State, as the Tánaiste has heard from many Members previously, has pressing social needs right now. Across the country people are waiting for the procedures about which Members have spoken. They are waiting to get access to general practitioner, GP, appointments because of the lack of rural doctors, which will become the next acute crisis for us. The south east, my own area, is facing the real risk of having no psychiatric services for children and adolescents at the end of this month at a time when Ireland's suicide rate for teens is among the highest in the European Union.

Every day I can identify the social needs that need to be met. Inaction in addressing these issues is not defensible. The State is not like a household or company in terms of saving money. A private household or company can save its money in a bank and the bank will reinvest it in the economy. The State is so large that inaction has as much effect as an action. If, as the Government proposes, the State does not spend €500 million and puts it in a rainy day fund, that is not a neutral action. It is a large dose of inaction that will shrink the economy in proportion and lower its future trajectory.

The Labour Party's hands were obviously tied in government by the scale of the national debt and the size of the deficit we faced in 2011. Following that painful period, the economy has grown rapidly and we have growing employment. If not now, when can the people of Ireland expect to see the necessary investment in all the social provision that every Deputy in this House could outline, including the Government's backbenchers? These services are necessary, not optional, to maintain both our social fabric and a growing economy. By creating the so-called rainy day fund, Government inaction will result in weaker public services and a permanent loss of the potential growth that spending could create.

If the €500 million rainy day fund is to be created rather than investing in all the social needs I and others have outlined, where will it go? Where will the rainy day fund be put?


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