FG wooing the low-paid voters next time around
Fine Gael today gives the first hint of its economic manifesto for the General Election next spring. It will contain a welcome emphasis on job creation and make a direct pitch for the votes of the low-paid workers. Happily, it will prioritise work over welfare.
Fine Gael's economic electoral strategy, as revealed in this newspaper, is based on three interlinked steps.
Step one is to create more and more jobs around the country. The 12.5pc company tax rate is to be defended at all costs in order to protect inward investment.
But taxes on job-creation in smaller and mainly Irish-owned businesses, along with more investment in infrastructure, are also aimed at speeding up the pace of job creation.
The big prize will be increasing employment levels by almost 200,000 by 2020.
Step two is to ensure that work pays more than welfare, thereby further incentivising people who want to work. The Universal Social Charge is again confirmed as in line to be phased out over the coming five years.
But Fine Gael would also increase the minimum wage and reform welfare with a 'Working Family Payment' designed to boost low-paid workers' incomes. There will also be efforts to ease childcare costs.
The third and final step is to use the extra tax revenues from more people at work to fund extra and improved services.
Given the stinging criticisms from the Fiscal Advisory Council, there are efforts to emphasise prudence. Fine Gael will pledge to eliminate new government borrowing by 2018 and keep increased government spending below the rate of economic growth.
The signs are that this, and hopefully other documents from the competing parties, should nurture a careful and detailed election debate on Ireland's economic future. Too many Irish people suffered too much to allow the current economic recovery be dissipated with a return to recession.
Voters have a duty to question these and all other proposals.