No plan to solve pensions time bomb until 2009

THE Government is unlikely to have a concrete plan to tackle the growing pension time bomb in place until early 2009, it emerged yesterday.

Its Green Paper on Pensions was launched yesterday by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Tánaiste Brian Cowen and Minister for Social Affairs Martin Cullen.

But despite the previous Minister, Seamus Brennan, talking for almost three years about the urgency of the situation, the paper offers no specific recommendation about how the Government should tackle the crisis.

Instead, the 254-page document gives a comprehensive analysis of the situation and sets out various options which might be adopted.

At the launch, Mr Cullen said that the purpose of the paper was to promote debate and create consensus.

To that end, a consultation process will begin that will include a major conference in the second quarter of 2008.

After the period of consultation, the Government will produce a long-term framework.

At the press conference yesterday, Mr Cullen refused to be drawn on any options that have been suggested on the grounds that they would preempt the consultation.

He added that he would be prepared to make the hard decisions on pensions.

The Green Paper reinforced the seriousness of the situation. Now, there are six people working for each pensioner. That ratio will plummet to two workers for each pensioner by 2050, a situation that will exhaust tax revenue unless radical alternatives are pursued.

Some of the possible solutions that have been floated including increasing the retirement age; changing the basis of social welfare pensions; increasing the workforce; and changes to the manner in which people invest for their pensions.

In a hard-hitting statement Fine Gael’s spokeswoman Olwyn Enright described the paper as “254 pages of nothing”.

“It does not contain one single concrete proposal on how the Government will tackle the looming pensions crisis,” she said.

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