Cowen defends target of 300,000 jobs as 'achievable'
THE Government last night strongly defended its plan to create 300,000 jobs, after its ambitious proposals were criticised as reheated targets already published by state agencies.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted the Government would create 150,000 new direct jobs and 150,000 spin-off jobs in tourism, manufacturing and trading services over the next five years.
But 62,000 of the IDA jobs and 60,000 of the Enterprise Ireland jobs were previously announced. In all, at least 120,000 of the 150,000 jobs outlined in the five-year action plan were announced already by the two employment agencies and Tourism Ireland.
Opposition parties claimed the "new" action plan was a "repackaging", "reheating" and "rehashing" of old jobs plans.
But the Government's plan does mark the first time that all jobs targets have been integrated into one single and focused policy document. And government sources insisted the plan to attract an extra 780 IDA investments and grow indigenous exports by 33pc by 2015 was new.
"It does not replace any specific jobs strategy, but rather builds on existing plans such as the capital review plan announced earlier this summer which creates 270,000 jobs," an Enterprise Department spokes- man said.
Publication of the action plan comes as the Government starts a new Dail term today and braces itself for new Live Register figures and another opinion poll later in the week.
The numbers on the Live Register have climbed to a record 460,000, but are expected to fall today because of students returning to schools and colleges.
On the eve of those much-anticipated figures, Fine Gael claimed the Government's "new" action plan to get people off the dole contained no new funding and no new policies, while Labour said it was high on targets and low on specifics.
In the IDA's case, they will now have to boost a 62,000 jobs target to 75,000 jobs, and will be given an extra year.
Overall, the Government plans to create 150,000 direct jobs and 150,000 spin-off jobs from the manufacturing, tourism and international trading services over five years.
The two major job-creation agencies -- the IDA and Enterprise Ireland -- last night admitted the Government's ambitious targets would be "challenging".
A spokesperson for Enterprise Ireland said its target would be a "stretch", but insisted it was achievable.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the ambitious jobs target of 300,000 was predicated on world growth which was already under way.
Ireland, he said, was an excellent exporter and must grow its share in the world markets.
"Even in 2009, our worst year, we sold €150bn into these markets and I think it's important we recognise we have a good base," Mr Cowen said.
But Fine Gael's Richard Bruton claimed the Government had completely ignored the fact that closures and job losses would knock out many of the new jobs.
Hitting back, junior minister for trade Billy Kelleher accused Fine Gael of adopting an "anti-jobs approach".
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) claimed that, even if the Government did achieve its targets, the figure would only "stand still" because of continuing job losses.
Meanwhile, a crowd demanding 'jobs not cuts' will descend on the Dail today.
Since the Dail broke for its holidays on July 8, the numbers out of work have soared to over 455,000 -- the highest since the Live Register began in 1967.
Siobhan Creaton assesses the plan