Sunday 17 November 2019

We 'need Plan B to curb reliance on foreign firms', economist warns

Dr Tom Healy Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute
Dr Tom Healy Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute
Tara Coppinger from Project Spraoi speaking on healthy lifestyle education at the Impact educational division conference in Galway yesterday. Photo: Reg Gordon

Caroline Crawford

Ireland needs a 'Plan B' to curb its reliance on foreign multinationals, the director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) has warned.

Dr Tom Healy said the country needed to take steps to develop an indigenous industry and had to extend our long-term vision beyond five years.

Speaking at the Impact education division conference in Galway, Dr Healy said Ireland was most unusual among Northern European countries for its failure to develop "a rounded native enterprise sector" that has exporting capacity, innovation and high levels of skill, such as exists in Finland, Denmark, Norway and other small European countries.

He spoke of the huge reliance on foreign direct investment (FDI), pointing out that these companies support about 25pc of Irish GDP.

"If we go forward even 10 years from now, who is to guarantee Facebook and Google and all the other silicon valley companies that cluster around Dublin 2 and 1 and down by the docks will still be here?" he asked.

Dr Healy called for a Plan B, stating it was "very much relevant to public service and taxation because everything is joined together".

He said the country had looked at the problem every 20 years or so but had not succeeded in developing a "sufficiently strong native industrial base".

Part of the problem was long-term vision here extends no more than five years when we need to think in terms of 30 to 50 years, he added.

He warned that with so much discussion on pay and working hours, there was a risk that we were overlooking the importance of the social wage.

This encompasses provision of education, early and elder care, healthcare, community services, pensions and homes.

Dr Healy said Ireland's social wage was "completely out of line with Europe".

In calculating the living wage of €11.45 a hour - provision has been made in Ireland for private health insurance. "There is no other country in Europe where a living wage calculation would have to factor in €600 or €700 a year for a single adult for private health insurance," he said.

"The social wage in Ireland is actually not so good. This is why workers and their families need more cash in pocket to buy stuff that you don't have to pay for in Britain, Germany France or Belgium," he added.

However, he warned that the social wage was linked to social insurance and Ireland has one of the lowest rates of social insurance in Europe.

School secretaries call for an end to 'two-tier' system

School secretaries who faced State-imposed pay cuts despite the fact that they had never been recognised as public servants have called for the "two-tier" system to be abolished.

While some secretaries are employed directly by the Department of Education and are public servants, others are employed by the school board of management and do not receive the same terms and conditions.

Secretaries have repeatedly called for the two-tier system to be abolished, but it was not until 2010 that the department finally recognised them as public servants and then for the sole purpose of pay cuts.

The secretaries branch has now demanded that secretaries paid by a grant the school's board receives from the department will not be overlooked when the deductions are reversed.

"I trust we will once again be classed as public servants for the return of this money.

"We, the school secretaries branch, believe it is now time to abolish this two-tier system of payment," said Marion Jackson, who proposed the motion.

Irish Independent

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