The Labour Party in Ireland have been soaring in the opinion polls but remain stubbornly mute on the issue of fiscal discipline and public expenditure cuts, including, for example, whether child benefit should, or should not, be cut.
If Labour is to fulfil the trends in recent opinion polls the electorate need to have some clear insight and concrete understanding into how Labour, in government, intend to steer the economy. Why should the electorate buy a pig in a poke?
A scarecrow in a fog would have offered more incisive economic leadership that our dear nation has witnessed in recent times. The consequences are mirrored in the polls, high interest rates, indifferent sentiment and declining credit ratings.
Economic leadership includes not just the broad policy frameworks concerning public expenditure and the successful prosecution of delinquent bankers. But it also means fielding an A -team throughout the government apparatus to execute competent economic leadership. Is it not reasonable that a prospective Head of Government could give an indicative indication of the team he will assemble to implement a Labour mandate?
I am not speaking of elected official but the myriad of non-elected appointees to boards and commissions throughout the State and, most especially, those whose profile and competence impacts on the reputation of the State in the economic arena.
Perception counts for more than people presume. That is why we are paying through the nose for sovereign debt and why rating agencies frown on Ireland. If Ireland does not field an A -team in all positions that have an impact on the recovery our national reputation we risk becoming an exploited, inconsequential third-world backwater in a very unforgiving global system that will never achieve self-sufficiency.
The social welfare budget has increased in the past decade by 206% from €6.7 billion to €20.5 billion since 2000. During this decade our population increased by 19% and the consumer price index by 28.8%. Total child benefit payments increased by 291% while the number of child beneficiaries increased by 14% since 2000 to 1,156,917 in 2009. The deficit in the Social Insurance Fund has increased from €249 million in 2008 to €2.48 billion in 2009.
Social welfare is the largest component of the budget. Politics is about making choices. What choices do Labour intend to offer voters?