Thursday 14 November 2019

The boom time party is back, baby - but nobody wants to raise a glass just yet

The economists are telling us that things are back on track - but no one seems to be sharing that particular love

'The economists are telling us that things are back on track - but no one seems to be sharing that particular love'
'The economists are telling us that things are back on track - but no one seems to be sharing that particular love'
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

We're back, baby! Spending is up, unemployment is down, there's cranes in them there skies and the sale of obscenely priced designer bags is at an all time high. Before you know it you'll be buying up apartment blocks in Croatia and trading in the old Toyota for a new Merc. What? You're not feeling it? No trickle down effect? Not even a little tinkle in your waters? Nothing? Ah, come on.

Last week the latest CSO statistics showed that our gross domestic product (GDP) is up by a whopping 6.5pc (there's no need to mention Eurostat) and we have the strongest growing economy in Europe. So, in today's Sunday Independent/Millward Browne Poll one of the questions we asked you was: Do you feel personally better off, worse off or in the same situation as you were in this time last year? The result? Only one-in-six of you said that you felt better off this year. That's a measly 16pc. And - in what will come as a bit of a blow to a Government trying to persuade us that things really are getting better - a rather large proportion of you, 40pc to be precise, are feeling distinctly worse off than you did last year.

But then, between 2008 and 2014 we've suffered about €30bn in cuts and tax hikes. That's about €6,500 per person (or just under what Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary earns in a day). Many people are still paying off Celtic Tiger debts at post-crash salaries, so it's hardly surprising if you're not persuaded to change the weekly shop at Lidl for something more upmarket anytime soon, is it?

A stoic 39pc of you have treaded water and feel pretty much the same financially as you did last year. No better, but no worse, which, when we consider the horror of the past eight years is, in itself, a relief to many. Worryingly, age wise, the highest percentage (50pc) of people who felt they were worse off than last year is the 55-64 year old group. This is the group that still has over a decade before retirement age. If they have lost their job during the recession they are less likely to be re-employed - or if they are re-employed, frequently it is in lesser-status positions. Psychologically, this group also feels that it should be benefiting from years of employment, and paying taxes. The 50-64 age group should be looking forward to retirement; they did not expect to find themselves mired in austerity, extra taxes and worry about their future pensions.

On the upside, hope springs eternal, to paraphrase David Hume, and this time next year more of you believe we will be better off. Or at least one-in-five of you does - at 19pc. Over 40pc of you believe that things will remain pretty much static while a pessimistic 29pc - nearly a third of you - think we will be worse off. Once again, age-wise it's the over 50s who see the light at the end of tunnel as an oncoming train, as 34-35pc of this group sees their fortunes waning over the coming 12 months. The property tax and water charges would seem to have cancelled out any benefit you may feel from proposed tax cuts in the coming year.

So, quite a lot of you need a break. Or a wage increase. But opinion is still divided on this as less than half of you believe that there should be private sector wage increases (44pc - up just 1pc since April) while a similar 44pc of you think there should be no increases in public sector wages, down 6pc since April. (Will the Government face off the unions and resist them?)

Instead what many of you want is the Government to lessen the tax burden in the shape of income tax cuts and USC reductions. You want more money in your pocket. But the Central Bank disagrees - it has warned the Government that, despite this week's figures, they should concentrate on paying off the national debt rather than cutting taxes. Will they be prudent and listen to that sober advice? In a budget before an election?

Will they what?

Sunday Independent

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