Our future hangs on a vital vote for stability
Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30
The US economist Paul Krugman wrote: "For most Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport." There are many in Ireland who might make the same argument but even the most begrudging would have to accept that after the worst recession we have ever seen, the economy is finally going in the right direction.
That does not entitle our politicians to go on victory parades or conduct laps of honour: the improvement was achieved by the hard industry and sacrifices of the workforce. The Coalition's stewardship was commendable but the bouquets, such as they are, should go to all who worked longer hours for less pay and accepted tax increases and levies as a painful fact of recessionary life. There has been an improvement in the State's finances and the economy is stabilising, but once more, yesterday, concerns were expressed by employers that prolonged post-election instability could hit progress.
"Irish business can create a further 60,000 jobs in 2016, but hiring plans could be threatened if the election results in an unstable or anti-enterprise government," Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy warned.
On the upside, Mr McCoy said: "After some very difficult years, we are now rapidly reducing unemployment and generating the tax revenue needed to support investment in public services and vital infrastructure. It is vital that this positive trend continues."
The numbers currently employed are the highest since 2009. While this is welcome, the most recent figures indicate a slowdown in the rate of increase over the course of the year. Looking ahead, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid was also upbeat, suggesting: "As regards unemployment, we are now looking for an average jobless rate this year of 8.5pc as against 9.4pc in 2015," he added. But job creation should not be taken for granted. The experience of Greece and Portugal proves how political instability can undermine confidence, driving borrowing costs upwards. Uncertainty is not conducive to creating a favourable climate for investment.
History is full of lessons learnt from bad governments, but some of the costliest of all have come when there was no government - or an unstable government.
A healthy appetite for the benefits of the sun
Many academic studies have a tendency to leave us in the dark, but new research from UCC is enlightening, in a real sense. According to Professors Kevin Cashman and Mairead Kiely, about 40pc of Europe's population have poor low levels of Vitamin D.
In Ireland one in eight of us is deficient in the vitamin, which is vital for the development of healthy bones for children and adults. Its lack in extreme cases can result in rickets in children and severe bone pain in adults.
Given that sunlight is the main source of the vitamin, our long winters and shorter days pretty much guarantee that we will lose out. When the fleeting summer sun does come, it arrives with a caution from doctors to smear on the sun-block.
But we need not despair. Prof Cashman advises that the alternative source of vitamin D is from food.
However, we are not eating the right kinds. Good food sources are oily fish - such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. It is also found in eggs, fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and some powdered milks. We may not be able to bask in the sunshine but we can at least enjoy a loving spoonful.