Thursday 8 December 2016

Marc Coleman: Despite best intentions, the Troika never understood us

Bailout overlords were too busy talking to social partners to see the real pain austerity caused, writes Marc Coleman

Published 24/11/2013 | 01:00

WATCHDOG: The Troika's Istvan Szekely said the better off in Ireland had 'borne the brunt of austerity'
WATCHDOG: The Troika's Istvan Szekely said the better off in Ireland had 'borne the brunt of austerity'

Not before time, Troika man is leaving our shores. When he was here he gave us lots of advice, most of it good and some of it very bad. By way of a thank you, we might reciprocate with some advice of our own. And my suggested advice would be this: before you go to your next posting, go on a good marriage guidance course. For as you learn on any good marriage guidance course there are times when even though you are totally right, saying so is not wise. And even when it is, the way you say something matters.

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Last Tuesday was one of those times. In probably his last statement to the media, the Troika's Istvan Szekely told us that the "better off" had borne the "brunt of austerity". Like his colleagues, Szekely is well meaning and wants the best for us. But the EU Commission for which he works is also largely untouched by crisis: EU officials earn significantly more than average EU citizens and pay significantly less tax. Troika man will retire after 35 years of service on 70 per cent of his salary. With Commission pay starting at €1,600 a month and rising to up to €16,000, that means pension incomes above what most of us will ever earn even before we retire. And when we do we'll be lucky if we have any kind of pension, never mind the defined benefit kind the ESB unions want us all to bail out. Like those unions, Troika man works in a sheltered world of protected pay and pensions. He is less likely than us to have worked as a frontline public service worker or in the private sector or to have run his own business. And he has probably never stood in line for a welfare cheque. So, decent type though he is, he has little perception of the world in which most of us live.

Technically, Troika man is correct. Ignoring the fact that even those on relatively high incomes are not necessarily "better off" (many are in chronic negative equity and debt arrears through little fault of their own), data from the Institute of Taxation in Ireland shows that those on higher incomes have indeed lost out more than those on lower incomes.

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