FF: ‘Long on aspiration but short on detail’

Sinn Féin Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty

Fianna Fáil has described the Government’s economic plan as long on aspiration but short on detail and a missed opportunity for the country in the wake of the formal exit from the bailout programme.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath accused the Coalition of taking a gamble that economic growth would get Ireland out of its difficulties without producing any clear plans as to how that growth will be achieved.

“The Government projection that our debt to GDP ratio will fall below 90% is entirely dependent on economic growth,” he said.

“You need to spell out clearly where the growth will come from and that is the one fundamental issues which is missing from this document.”

Mr McGrath said there was little or nothing in the document which addressed major issues facing the economy such as mortgage arrears, personal indebtedness, or credit to the small and medium business sector.

He said one of the Government’s main plans was for an export-led recovery, but this is strongly dependent on international sentiment in Europe, Britain, and the US.

He said Fianna Fáil would like to have seen more practical initiatives for the business sector, which, Mr McGrath said, was hanging on by its fingertips dealing with local authority rates, rents, and energy bills that belong to a different era.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty also described the plan as deeply disappointing, claiming the strategy was hollow, empty, and lacking in specifics.

He said it was the Government’s seventh strategy report with figures for the Irish economy and on the six previous occasions it had missed its targets.

Mr Doherty criticised the Government for not stepping up the ante and looking for a deal on the recapitalisation of the Irish banks.

The Government pumped €64bn into the banks and paid back all senior bondholders on the instructions of the ECB.

Mr Doherty called on the Government to do more for those in mortgage arrears and criticised Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s comments that the banks were late starters to resolving the crisis.

“We want our elected politicians to tell the banks that this needs to be sorted out and we will not tolerate 144,000 in mortgage arrears and you [the banks] twiddle your thumbs,” he said, adding that there was no action, no promise, and no hope for such people in the economic plan.

Meanwhile, Siptu described the plan as a “reasonable diagnosis” of the challenges ahead but said more detail was needed on how progress could be made.

Siptu economist Marie Sherlock said without specific key actions in many areas, the plans to be published by individual government departments in the new tear will be critical.

She urged caution on the economic growth projections and said the forecast that unemployment will fall to 8.1% by 2020 was optimistic.

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