Jim Power: Economic growth doesn’t automatically secure re-election

The Latin writer Publilius Syrus, who was born in 85 BC, is reputed to have coined the old saying that “anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm”.

Jim  Power: Economic growth doesn’t automatically secure re-election

The Latin writer Publilius Syrus, who was born in 85 BC, is reputed to have coined the old saying that “anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm”.

As we face into a general election over the coming weeks or months, the incumbent government must be fearful that this is how a large segment of the electorate is viewing its stewardship of the economy since 2016.

For a government that is presiding over an economy with a record level of employment, an unemployment rate of just 4.8% of the labour force, relatively healthy public finances, and an economy that is generally experiencing reasonably healthy levels of activity, it does not appear to be generating the love that might be expected.

Perhaps the electorate feels that anybody could have done the job since 2016, given the relatively favourable tailwinds that the economy has been enjoying.

There is a sense out there that many want change for the sake of change.

Politics is a harsh blood sport and the electorate is not easily impressed.

The main party of government will, presumably, fight the election on its sound management of the economy and the opposition parties will promise even sounder management.

We can look forward to all sorts of promises and, inevitably, many of us suckers will believe those promises.

Will we ever learn?

While we can be justifiably cynical about the whole electoral process and politicians in general, there are a number of serious issues and challenges facing the Irish economy and Irish society that should dominate the imminent election and we are entitled to hold our elected representatives to account in relation to these issues.

Number one on the agenda has got to be housing.

I am not convinced that our government fully appreciates just how exercised people are by the housing issue.

While homelessness tends to dominate popular discourse, most people are more concerned about the cost of renting and the inability of young people, in particular, to do what young Irish people have always done, which is to aspire to home ownership.

The Irish housing market is not currently functioning as a functioning housing market should.

Any party that comes forward with a proper housing strategy should be rewarded by the electorate and then held to account in terms of its delivery.

The problem with the current housing strategy is that there does not appear to be a coherent one. Rather, we are being treated to a mishmash of incoherent policies.

Sorting this as quickly as possible has got to be the number one priority.

The provision of a functional health service also has to be given very high priority.

It seems clear that we do not have sufficient beds; sufficient frontline staff such as nurses, doctors and consultants; and a functioning primary care system.

The GP situation is falling apart, and as GPs retire, it is proving very difficult to replace them.

This has to be indicative of some problem in the system.

A high quality and adequately resourced primary care system must be a key part of the solution.

The depressing aspect of all of this is that if we cannot provide a functioning health service with the current high level of financial resources directed at it, then we can only despair at the impact that our ageing demographic will have on the service over the coming years.

From a business perspective, there is really only one issue that should dominate the electoral agenda, and that issue is insurance.

Despite a lot of rhetoric, there has been an abject failure to remedy the crisis.

Government appears terrified to fully investigate the role of the legal profession in the whole sordid mess.

The other issue that we will hear a lot about during the election campaign is the environment.

Government appears to be ramping up its response in recent months, but it certainly does not strike me that many of its responses are either realistic or achievable.

We need to run a lot faster to stand still.

It promises to be an extremely interesting election campaign, but at the end of it all, we must hope that we end up with a strong government that is not afraid to take the hard decisions that are necessary.

New politics certainly did not deliver this since 2016.

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