'Mac the Knife? I'd need a chainsaw today'
A FORMER finance minister who was known as "Mac the Knife" for the drastic spending cuts he imposed said that if he had the same job today his nickname would be "Mac the Chainsaw".
Ray MacSharry said cuts across the board were now needed to restore Ireland's competitiveness.
"Prices must come down if costs come down. A lot of people think if they have a reduction in their wages or a reduction in some costs or services that it will not pass on.
"It should and has to be passed on and that is the real way to become competitive in the economy. The cost of every single service that the public are demanding and are entitled to, must be reduced," he said.
The former Fianna Fail minister also warned that wages would continue to be cut in the current economic downturn
"Transport, energy, refuse collection charges, rates financial services charges, doctors' charges, lawyers' charges, accountants' charges, all have to come into the mix to make our economy competitive again. We won't like it but we will have to allow it to happen and we will only survive it if it does," he said.
Mr MacSharry was addressing delegates at the Spring Seminar of the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland in Sligo. Charting Ireland's trajectory from boom to bust, he said indigenous industries such as forestry, fishing, agriculture and tourism had been neglected during the Celtic Tiger years.
He maintained that a huge number of jobs could be created if Ireland stopped sending live animals abroad and brought them to maturity at home instead.
He also proposed that the Government should cease airport charges and taxes for two years.
Mr MacSharry told the conference that predictions of an end to the recession next year were optimistic.
Another former finance minister, Alan Dukes, predicted that 2011 was "going to be every bit as difficult" as the current year but that things would begin to improve in the two years following that.
Mr Dukes also told the conference that Greece's fiscal problems would impact on EU member states.
"Getting action to sort out the Greek crisis is important for us because it will have a direct effect on the resources we have," he said.