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Thomas Molloy: This has the EU's and IMF's fingerprints all over it

THE Government finds itself in the same position as the ancient pharaohs who ruled Egypt by claiming that they made the sun rise every day.

Our present leaders are pulling off much the same trick by taking credit for policy changes that the State has sworn to implement anyway in the memorandum of understanding which forms part of the IMF/EU bailout plan.

If you want to know what is coming down the tracks, simply look up the memorandum, which lists month by month and year by year what is going to happen.

Just don't expect the Government to admit that it is painstakingly following most elements of the plan for fear our creditors will stop lending.

Of course there have been a few well-publicised spats to convince voters that we still live in a democracy -- but most of the promises will be kept.

Take page 11 of the memorandum, which says quite clearly that the Government will take measures to tackle unemployment and reform social welfare benefits to save €750m a year by the end of May.

Other steps demanded by the IMF this month are measures to better identify job seekers' needs and the "application of sanction mechanisms for beneficiaries not complying with job-search conditionality" -- what most of us would describe as a crackdown on fraud.

Puppets

This is why the Government finally unveiled its lacklustre jobs initiative right on cue and why it will start to take long-overdue action to flush out the small minority taking the social welfare system for a ride.

The Government has no choice; it is following orders.

There was further evidence of this when Finance Minister Michael Noonan hinted to the Dail on Tuesday that he would soon unveil changes to our manifestly unfair pension system.

These changes, when they come, will be good news for all those who believe we should stop bus drivers from subsidising bankers' pensions.

Of course, the real credit belongs to the IMF and EU, which have demanded that this December's Budget contains a reduction in private-pension tax reliefs.

Just don't expect Michael Noonan to tell the Dail that this great idea is coming from Washington and Brussels and must be implemented regardless of what he thinks.

Of course, the EU and the IMF will continue to be blamed for some of the more unpopular measures coming down the tracks, such as property and water charges, but whether the Government tries to take the credit or lay the blame elsewhere, it is the IMF and the EU who are calling the shots these days.

Many people dismiss the Cabinet as muppets -- but 'puppets' would probably be the better word.

Irish Independent