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We could have top public services if our spending was transparent

We’ve had five years of Fine Gael and Labour, so none of their supporters can be under any delusion that those parties are any different to Fianna Fáil, not in policy, and especially not when it comes to ethics.

We know this so those who vote in 2016 cannot pretend they are voting for one or other party on that basis.

But the most depressing thing I heard from the Fine Gael Árd Fheis was taoiseach Enda Kenny, and various ministers, who should know better, trot out the proven fallacy that you can have a low tax economy and first world public services. There is no country on earth that has achieved this.

Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, plus others, can either be for low taxes and public squalor or they can be for world class public services and the taxes to pay for them, but within a reformed, accountable and transparent public service. You’d think a country that came a cropper because of its narrow tax base would now want to build the widest possible tax base to avoid a repeat.

Instead of pretending that the USC can be abolished without affecting service provision, is it too much to think that our political class could devise a plan to show us how they would use higher taxes to fund world class public services?

We pay more in tax and charges to run our health service than they do in countries with a full coverage free at the point of use system, so why can’t we have a free system?

We pay more in tax and ticket costs for our transport system than other countries with proper modern and efficient systems that generate a profit for reinvestment, so why can’t we learn from them?

We pay more for housing and to supplement private landlords but we have completely and utterly failed to provide any social housing sphere like other countries do?

All they need to do is go to Denmark, Israel, Austria, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Taiwan and other countries with similar demographics to us and let them share their expertise.

But the problem arises because in those countries the public service is accountable and transparent.

Can anyone imagine an Irish TD getting their head around the idea that in Sweden anyone, for free, can ask to see anyone’s tax return. That Swedish TDs do not buy second homes or local offices and keep ownership while passing the cost to the Swedish taxpayer, but the State provides and retains ownership of such property and when you retire, resign or lose your seat, your Stockholm apartment and local offices pass to your successor in Parliament? Receipts are published as standard.

Not one of the politicians, of whatever side, has a new or transformative idea that they will put in effect when elected.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf


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