Making promises is easy, governing is far different
THE Fine Gael election manifesto which helped the party win power this time last year is like the Communist Manifesto: a good idea that has never been tried.
Re-reading the Fine Gael manifesto this week, it is striking how few measures have been implemented and how both the manifesto and many subsequent economic decisions were based on overly optimistic growth forecasts that virtually guarantee failure.
Still, it is reassuring to remember that once upon a time Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny had a pretty clear idea of what needed to be done. Here are some of their better ideas in case they've forgotten.
• On NAMA
"Persons that have defaulted on loans acquired by NAMA will be banned from ever purchasing any asset from NAMA."
• On the public sector
"There will be no 'golden handshakes' for those who fail to deliver."
• On change
"A Fine Gael government will hold a referendum on constitution day within 12 months of assuming office at which the people will be asked to approve the abolition of the Seanad and other changes to the articles of the constitution covering the institutions of the State -- principally the executive, the Dail, the presidency and the judiciary."
• On privatisation
"As we fix the deficit in a way that restores confidence, a Fine Gael government will use the remaining funds in the NPRF, sell non-strategic state assets and restructure the commercial semi-state sector in order to finance €7bn in extra investment in water services, telecommunications and energy."
• On waste
"We will also appoint a committee to examine the accounts and cost base of the semi-states -- a 'Bord Snip' for the semi-states -- to recommend ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in each company with a view to passing on any savings to customers."
• On job seekers
"A requirement on under-25s to maintain a jobs diary recording search experience and skill enhancement activities, with sanctions for unreasonable rejections of training and opportunities."
• On benefits
"Conditionality whereby benefits will be reduced if recipients refuse offers of training, education, work experience."
• On cartels
"We will merge the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency (NCA), the Communications Regulator (ComReg), the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) into a powerful consumer champion, and we will give it additional powers . . . to break up public and private sector monopolies."
• On commercial rents
"We will pass legislation to give all tenants the right to have their commercial rents reviewed in 2011 irrespective of any upward-only or other review clauses."
• On corruption
"Fine Gael will ensure that rogue bankers and all those that misappropriate or embezzle funds are properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them. We will give the courts the powers necessary to impose appropriate fines and jail sentences."
• On transparency
"The details of all non-performing loans acquired by NAMA will be available for scrutiny on a public register, including the names of the creditors, the price paid by the taxpayer for the loans and the actions taken by NAMA."
• On mortgages
"A Fine Gael government will direct any mortgage provider in receipt of state support to present it with a plan within 100 days of coming into office of how it intends to cut its wage bill and other costs -- over and above existing plans -- in a fair manner by a sufficient amount to forego a 25 basis point increase on their variable rate mortgages."
Who would have thought that so many decent ideas could be junked so quickly by the people who devised them?