IT’S a load of “hype and spin” according to Fianna Fáil, but the Government claims it is a “covenant with the Irish people”. Here is the report card for the first 100 days in office.
* Fine Gael’s promise: To use its contacts in Europe to get a better, cheaper deal for Ireland, including reducing the interest rate of the EU’s share of the €85 billion loan package.
* What the Government says now: It has secured “near-universal support for an interest-rate reduction, including from the IMF, EU Commission, ECB and most EU countries”.
* What the opposition says: The Government has taken a “hands off” approach on the seeking a reduction and “given up on looking for better terms”. There has been some “small print changes” but nothing of substance.
* The verdict: The European Commission has agreed in principle to a reduction in the interest rate but this has to be approved by all member states and not all are willing to do so.
France remains strongly opposed to it without changes to our corporate tax rate in return. But Enda Kenny has so far failed to sit down in a bilateral meeting to discuss it with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Any reduction at this stage will only apply to €23bn of the bailout, and not the €15bn in EU funding already drawn down.
* What the Government says: The effects of the Jobs Initiative, introduced 10 weeks into office, will be seen shortly. But this is only a start and “the start is always going to be a complicated position”.
* What the opposition says: The Jobs Initiative was “far less radical” than it promised to be and took nearly €200m out of the economy.
* The verdict: It’s far too early to asses the success or otherwise of the Jobs Initiative, but its measures fulfil most of the pre-election promises. There is still no sign of NewEra but work is underway in setting up the authority.
Small businesses will have to wait until December’s budget before any start-up fund is set up.
* Fine Gael’s promise: To help mortgage holders by forcing state-supported banks to come up with enough savings to absorb an interest rate increase of up to 0.25% from European Central Banks. Also, to publish the Nyberg Report on the banking crisis
* What the Government says: The restructuring of the banks has been credible to depositors and markets, emergency funding from the Central Bank has been reduced, deposit outflows have stabilised and there is more domestic lending.
* What the opposition says:That the biggest pre-election promise of burning the senior bondholders has not been acted upon.
* The verdict: Banks are being cleaned up but the Government broke its promise not to pump another cent into banks without first forcing senior bondholders to take a hit.
Just four weeks into office the ECB raised interest rates by 0.25% and most banks said this would be passed on to mortgage holders.
* Fine Gael’s promise: To carry out an audit of waste across all departments and set up Independent Fiscal Advisory Council to advise the Oireachtas on borrowing levels, debt reduction and taxation planning.
* What the Government says: Ireland is making huge sacrifices to get out of this difficulty and we must prepare ourselves for more difficult decisions. But it has re-committed itself to no income taxes in the Budget.
* What the opposition says: This Government is continuing to implement the budgetary policies of the last Government which they had “savagely attacked”.
* The verdict: A full expenditure review is under way, requiring all departments to identify savings. It will be completed by September and influence December’s budget. The Advisory Council is due to be set up by the end of this month.
* Fine Gael’s promise: To immediately tackle the waiting list crisis, to replace the board of the HSE and put in place immediate plans for a cervical cancer catch-up programme for all girls in secondary school.
* What the Government says: A new agency to tackle hospital waiting lists has been set up, called the Special Delivery Unit, to cut delays for patients in need of surgery. It says waiting lists may rise in the short term but will eventually be cut. The board of the HSE has been replaced and the cervical cancer vaccination programme will be rolled out in September.
* What the opposition says: There is no information on how long it will take to set up the Special Delivery Unit or how much it will cost, with Fianna Fáil dismissing it as “another quango”.
* The verdict: Most of the pre-election promises on health were long-term in nature. First steps have been taken with the setting up of the Special Delivery Unit but only time will tell if it’s a success. The system in the North on which it was based did nothing to prevent waiting lists spiralling out of control.
* Fine Gael’s promise: To pass draft legislation on the abolition of the Seanad, the reduction of the Dáil size by 20 TDs and creating more “open government” through the strengthening the Freedom of Information laws, creating a register of lobbyists, banning corporate donations and writing a whistleblowers’ charter.
* What the Government says: None of these things have been implemented but they are being actively pursued. Legislation in many of these areas will be published before the summer break and passed next winter.
* What the opposition says: The Government has abandoned promises to ban corporate donations and many of these promises have simply been “for the optics”.
* The verdict: A constitutional committee will be set up in the summer to look at the number of TDs, corporate donations will be limited to €200 instead of banned and a super-referendum will be held in the autumn.
PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM:
* Fine Gael’s promise: Car pooling for ministers, transparency in public appointments, reducing pay for ministers and public servants and abolishing at least 20 state bodies.
* What the Government says: It has “slimmed down” the cost of Government, starting with their own salaries, and some car pooling arrangements are in place.
* What the opposition says: Old-style cynical politics is still in place. Fianna Fáil said it also cut ministerial wages when it was in office and that it remains to be seen what savings are made from the car pool arrangement.
* The verdict: One of Enda Kenny’s first actions was to cut his salary to €200,000 and that of ministers to €169,275. Action on reducing state bodies has been delayed until the completion of the spending review.
Any progress has been undermined by revelations that Justice Minister Alan Shatter appointed a man from whom he had received a €1,000 donation to the position of whistleblower liaison official for the gardaí.
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