The Government has completely lost the plot on jobs, says Burton
Central to Labour's programme for reform is a dedicated jobs fund that gives people hope, writes Olivia Kelleher
There will be no economic recovery in Ireland without a massive, targeted programme of job retention, job creation and work-based job training, Labour finance spokesperson Joan Burton told an economic forum in Cork yesterday.
Ms Burton said our Government was blind to the simple reality that rescuing the banks would, of itself, do little to close the budget deficit.
"Only a jobs-intensive economic recovery will do that. However, the Government remains obsessed with bailing out the broken banks at all costs."
The forum at Cork's Clarion Hotel heard that within the next two weeks, Irish taxpayers will be informed of the level of losses at Anglo Irish Bank for the 15 months to December 31, 2009. Ms Burton said these "mega losses" were likely to be in the region of €10bn to 14bn. At the same time, some €32bn worth of loans are expected to be transferred from Anglo to Nama.
Ms Burton stressed that once the accounts were published and the loan transfers announced, the taxpayer would receive the bad news -- the sum of money Fianna Fail planned to pump into this "zombie bank" that had "done no real new business since the State took it over".
"In the past year, the bank has already soaked up €4bn of taxpayers' money. Coincidentally, this exactly matches the entire €4bn package of budget cuts which saw social welfare and public service pay cut just before Christmas.
"The €4bn pumped into the bank last year has gone into an economic black hole, and the Government has been unable to tell us whether their further recapitalisation will enjoy the same fate." Ms Burton said that by April Fool's Day, the Government would have set out their 2010 bank recapitalisation programme and "told us how much more money they plan to heap on the Anglo bonfire".
"This number could be north of €6bn, bringing to €10bn or more the total amount lavished on this zombie bank that has, in effect, stopped lending," she said.
"This is 'good money after bad' gone mad! To put this in perspective, more than €5,000 will have been pumped into Anglo Irish Bank on behalf of every single taxpayer in the country in less than 12 months." She stressed that everything Fianna Fail told us about the economic crisis had turned out to be far worse in reality.
"Our ministers trot out mantras like they were the cast of Alice in Wonderland.
"Fianna Fail's approach to the banks, from the time of the bank guarantee, has been an unmitigated disaster for the real economy. Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and Brian Cowen as Minister for Finance had turned throwing money at problems into an art form. Taoiseach Cowen and Minister Lenihan are taking the same approach with the banks, and with our money. 'No cheque is too big to write,' they say."
She added that from having a coherent strategy, they had been making it up as they go along, running up a bill of tens of billions of euro to hand to this generation of taxpayers and the next.
"Where is the jobs plan? Where is the investment that will stimulate the economy and give people hope?
"The Government is so focused on the banks that it has completely lost the plot on jobs. Endless cuts are not the answer. We need an honest, competent government with a vision for change, a mandate for action and a belief that Ireland can be better. We need to give our young people hope that their economic future lies here, not on foreign shores."
Central to Labour's recovery programme, Ms Burton said, is a dedicated jobs fund.
"To stimulate investment, modernise our infrastructure and channel credit to SMEs, we propose the establishment of a strategic investment bank funded from the National Pension Fund and from the existing capital budget. In short, we need to invest in recovery, not bail out banks."
See Analysis, Pages 32-33