Watching the so-called people’s debates being broadcast in recent months, one would be forgiven for thinking that Ireland is still trapped in the hole in which it found itself back in 2009.
The programme this week from my hometown Waterford was particularly negative and depressing and was certainly a very poor advertisement for anybody who might be contemplating investing and creating jobs in the city. Perhaps there are vested interests in the city who actually do not want investment to happen, but if that is the case, they should be upfront and admit it. Those people were very much in evidence this week.
Investment and jobs are exactly what Waterford and many other parts of the country badly require, but to attract investment, an ‘open for business’ message has to be sent out.
I assume that the city and county manager — who, along with his officials, is doing his very best to revitalise an area that has not performed well in recent years — would not welcome the sort of image that programmes like this send out about the city. Every time the junior minister spoke, he was met by a barrage of boos and catcalls. Very unedifying stuff that does no favours, whatsoever, for those who want to work and for those who want to create jobs in the city.
Sadly, this is a manifestation of all that is bad about the Irish political system, where selfish motives and ideological hang-ups act against the common good.
The reality out there in the real economy is becoming increasingly different from that which is being portrayed in the so-called people’s debates. It has become increasingly clear, over the past couple of years, that the economy is enjoying a pretty remarkable economic recovery.
This is not good news for opposition politicians or others who are blinded by various forms of deep political prejudice.
There are those out there who have argued Ireland would never emerge from the mess, and now that it is clearly happening, they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the fact they got it wrong and that the policies put in place by the late Brian Lenihan and subsequently adhered to by the current government are actually working.
This is not to suggest, for one moment, that all is rosy in the garden. It is not.
There are still way too many people unemployed; there is still significant homelessness and food poverty; personal, SME and sovereign debt levels are dangerously onerous; the economic recovery is not well spread from a geographical perspective, and the personal tax burden is way too high for those who are in the income tax net.
However, when an economy experiences the sort of collapse Ireland underwent after 2008, it would be naive in the extreme to believe the situation could be turned around in the short-term.
The important point is the recovery is building momentum on a steady basis, and certainly more quickly than most would have predicted.
I have argued in this column on many occasions over the past three years that the success of the current government should be judged above all else by the number of people in meaningful employment.
If this is the judging criterion, then the Government is doing well. Yesterday’s employment data from the CSO show that in the year to the end of March, total employment in the economy increased by 2.3%, or 41,300, to reach 1.929m.
Total employment has increased by 87,700 since the Government was elected in the first quarter of 2011, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 9.8% of the labour force from a high of 15.1% at the beginning of 2012.
Employment in the economy is now 110,300 higher than the low point in 2012.
In my view, this represents very positive progress, because there is nothing better than meaningful employment creation to start solving social and financial problems.
Ireland is moving in the right direction and sensible people around the country need to ensure that the anti-business hard left are not allowed derail the progress that is being made.
The message for those who really care about business in Waterford is that they have to stand up and dispel the negative message sent out about the city this week.
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