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Half fear losing jobs as crisis deepens

It would be nice to start 2012 on a positive note but, for the majority of people, things are getting worse.

The Samaritans engaged YouGov to investigate how financial distress is affecting people. Some 70 per cent fear that they will not maintain their standard of living in 2012; 50 per cent fear for their jobs and 20 per cent feel they could lose their homes.

In the past three years, there has been a marked increase in the number of calls to the Samaritans by people who have financial worries as a direct result of the recession. The banks and property developers have been bailed out, but ordinary people cannot pay for basic essentials. Lifestyles and expectations have changed forever.

The report confirms what we all know. Financial worries are holding us back. Ordinary people don't understand why what little they own is taken to save those who have most. With nowhere left to turn they call the Samaritans.

There were more than 250,000 calls to the Samaritans in 2011 -- up nine per cent on the previous year. The economic crisis may have been brought about by financial mismanagement, but its solution requires the restoration of public confidence.

It would be a breath of fresh air if the Government would make an honest appraisal of our situation and do something positive about it. Borrowing and taxing to pay foreign banks is not constructive.

Having paid back €713m to unsecured bondholders at in November, the Government will pay another €1.25bn in January.

We have been immunised to the numbers. If the Government withheld or deferred repayment of bondholders in January, it would cover what will be collected in the new household tax for eight years.

Now imagine if it found 10 or 100 other such initiatives that we cannot afford. We might suffer some recriminations, but it would help restore public confidence, without which there will be no recovery.

It might take 10 or 100 years to pay back what we owe. Maybe we cannot pay it back at all. It might be left to our bigger EU partners to uphold the European banking ideal.

We took the austerity. It didn't work. Now it's time for plan B -- we pay what we can afford and nothing else. If ordinary people cannot keep what they worked for, they will stop trying. Then the system breaks down. Eventually the message will get through to the powers that be in the EU. But it will be too late.

We don't have to renege on our promises. We just have to shelve them until we can do something about them.

The Government can restore hope when it reclaims our sovereignty. Blaming us didn't cover up the mistakes made by the European banks.

Now the financial crisis is a pan-European problem. We may be part of it but we no longer hold the solution. It's time for us to step back and for others to accept responsibility. And the 10 per cent who kept something from the Celtic Tiger might have to give a bit back.

James Fitzsimons is an independent financial adviser specialising in tax and financial planning.

Sunday Independent