Taoiseach and his ministers have been up in the clouds for far too long

BERTIE wants a new €60 million jet from Santa.

Every Dáil deputy would probably like to buy their cigars and booze from Aer Rianta’s Duty Free shops in the way government ministers do while Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy would probably like to raid the Bank of England’s gold reserves to fund next year’s government borrowing.

Talk about giving mixed messages to the electorate.

According to a former Aer Rianta employee ministers down through the years have been doing well out of the duty free shops.

His allegation, made on national radio during the week just adds to the sense of disgust of ordinary people who are struggling to make ends meet and who have no choice but to live honest lives.

They have to pay their taxes at source and they do not have privileged access to Aer Rianta’s duty free jobs or government jets for that matter.

When Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach and Albert Reynolds Finance Minister, the latter took financial journalists to Milan on the Government Jet, where he was addressing European journalists.

Once Charlie heard about this venture he issued an instruction that the jet was for Government minister’s and their advisors, not common hacks.

All credit to Charlie. He knew how to keep the press in their rightful place and he wasn’t going to have its status sullied by allowing mere journalists on board.

Now Bertie is crying that the government needs a new jet, declaring the old one a joke and arguing that we risk becoming the laughing stock of Europe if we do not replace it for a cool €60 million.

This whinge is coming at a time when capital spending next year is to be cut by 6% and current spending kept at the level of inflation in the interest of good housekeeping.

Might we remind the Taoiseach and the Finance Minister that we have become the laughing stock of Europe already because of our failure to make the best use of the boom years, a period that can never be repeated.

Did anybody bother to tell our teflon Taoiseach that the boom is over and that paying 60m for a new jet for the government is not the kind of message he should be sending to the masses at this stage.

We can’t afford first time grants for houses, but we can afford €60m to buy an ego boosting plane for the vagabonds who squandered the boom years.

If the Taoiseach was as smart as some allege he ought to have gone for the jet instead of the Bertie Bowl.

Had he not wasted millions on the Bowl he could be spreading his wings in style across the globe at this stage.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this, is how out of touch the government is with what’s going on.

We are facing the toughest Budget in 10 years.

Justification for this is the refusal of the Finance Minister to revert to the bad days where borrowing led to unholy trouble for us all.

But even this ruse is being used to disguise the fact that the minister, despite his best efforts, is expected to borrow at least €3 billion next year having faced a shortfall in this year’s Budget of possibly up to 1 billion.

Trickery with the figures may create the illusion for 2003 that the economy is managing its affairs well, but the bottom line is that we are under the cosh now because we drove government spending ahead at an enormous pace without ensuring the money spent yielded real value for money and without providing for the rainy day.

The figures are mind boggling.

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