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Editorial: 'Economy can't be put at risk by rash election promises'

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'Fiscal competence is core to our economic future and must not crumble under the pressure to get votes' (stock photo)

'Fiscal competence is core to our economic future and must not crumble under the pressure to get votes' (stock photo)

Irochka - Fotolia

'Fiscal competence is core to our economic future and must not crumble under the pressure to get votes' (stock photo)

It seems we have reached that point in the election where it has occurred to someone to switch on the lights.

All those obstacles our politicians have been tripping over have suddenly become dazzlingly "manifest". Neatly catalogued, they are presented to the public with competing levels of conviction. No longer are they obstacles but opportunities.

Suddenly the unattainable, the unachievable and the unaffordable hove into view in a moment of magnificent clarity.

It is not that there will be no one waiting on a trolley come February 9, or that those on housing lists will suddenly have homes.

The staggering absurdity of the fact such astonishing solutions were hiding in plain sight under the noses of politicians for the past nine years until an election was called is not touched on in the manifestos.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is happy progress on health and housing "is gathering momentum". "I know the worry, frustration and concerns around the pace of progress in health and housing. Today we are laying out our plans to build on what has been done, with a particular focus on home ownership and universal healthcare," he said. And what plans they are. His party is at ease with spending €5bn more over the lifetime of the next government on the health services.

How effective this may be in a system that leaks money faster than Dublin's Victorian water pipes do water, matters not.

No, what matters is Fine Gael is seen to be pumping more into the sector than what has been promised by Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil. Mr Varadkar also committed to employing 5,000 nurses. Which begs the question why Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil bothered coming up with individual campaign slogans.

Judging by their manifestos they share the same ideology when it comes to making promises which can be best summed up as: "Go big or go home."

Every page explodes with plenitude.

Fianna Fáil will allocate health and housing €2bn each. But Mr Martin was determined to point out a government led by him would be prudent in its management of the public finances. The economic turnaround has been remarkable. But record revenues cannot be relied upon in perpetuity.

Ostentatious distribution of precious resources seldom goes unpunished. The sustainability of the surge in corporation tax generated by multinationals is clearly an issue given likely changes in international tax law. Last year's tax haul was a record €59.3bn, nearly double the €31.8bn received in 2010, the worst year of the financial crisis.

Fiscal competence is core to our economic future and must not crumble under pressure to attain votes. Only last month the ESRI warned a "sudden and persistent" drop in receipts would weaken the public finances for a prolonged period.

Another thing not overly elaborated on in the manifestos is the fact our national debt stands rigidly at €212bn.

Irish Independent