BY PADRAIG MAC LOCHLAINN TD (SF)
AUSTERITY isn’t working in Donegal and in Ireland.: Thousands are out of work across the county, another generation of our local people are being lost to emigration and our small businesses are being strangled.
Every single indicator of social and economic well-being clearly demonstrates that the austerity policies of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil are failing. These policies are hurting citizens and blocking a return to economic growth.
We should not give constitutional protection to these failed policies on May 31st. Our people need hope. They need a real plan for jobs and growth and not more cuts and stealth taxes.
Sinn Féin has consistently said that there are no easy solutions to our current economic and social crisis — but there are alternatives. We have repeatedly put forward detailed and costed proposals for reigning in the deficit, reducing Government debt and restoring economic growth.
Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil believe that you can cut your way out of a recession. Between the three parties, they have wrenched €24.6bn from the domestic economy in tax hikes on low and middle-income earners and cuts to frontline services.
Last year alone Fine Gael and Labour poured €21bn into the banks including €31bn into Anglo Irish Bank. Yet, they tell us they have no money for teachers, nurses or community employment schemes.
The Government tell us that their policies are working. But the facts tell a different story. Our debt-to-GDP ratio has risen, our deficit has risen, and unemployment has risen.
So what is the Sinn Féin alternative? In place of unfair taxes and stealth charges on low and middle-income families, Sinn Féin advocates progressive tax reform. In our 2012 alternative budget, we outlined a net increase in tax revenue of €3.26bn.
This included a third band of tax at 48% on income earned by individuals in excess of €100,000; reform of reliefs, including pension-tax relief; a wealth tax and the total abolition of the Universal Social Charge. Under Sinn Féin’s proposals all those earning less than €75,000 per year would see their tax burden fall.
In place of cuts to vital frontline services in health, education and community facilities, we advocated elimination of waste in public expenditure. But the crucial difference between Sinn Féin and the consensus-for-cuts parties is our jobs and family stimulus proposals.
Our alternative budget detailed a massive investment in job creation and retention. Taking money available to the Government from the National Pension Reserve Fund and the European Investment Bank, we outlined how a €7bn investment programme over three years could save and create over 100,000 jobs. We also outlined investment of almost €600m to help families struggling to cope with the economic crisis and undo the poverty and inequality.
Sinn Féin has also argued that our current debt-to-GDP ratio is not sustainable. The best way to reduce this is to secure a full write-down of the Anglo Irish promissory note, which would reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio by almost 20%. This would not only reduce our debt servicing costs, it would also dramatically improve our ability to return to the sovereign bond markets.
Every year since the economic crisis, Sinn Féin has outlined a fully costed alternative budget. We have met and in some cases exceeded the Government’s own fiscal targets. But crucially we have shown that there is a better and fairer way to reign in the deficit, reduce Government debt and restore economic growth.
People are, by their actions, passing judgment on the Government’s failing policies. The huge number of people in Donegal refusing to pay the household charge; the opposition to septic tank and water charges; and the dramatic slump in the Government’s approval ratings is all saying the same thing: People are hurting and the Government must listen.
Unfortunately rather than change course, the Government is now asking people to support even more austerity. On May 31, we are being asked to support an austerity treaty that will result in €6bn of extra spending cuts and tax increases being imposed on people post 2015.
This is on top of the €8bn the Government intends to cut in the coming four years. If you are against austerity, you must vote against the austerity treaty. We need a new approach. One based on the principles and policies outlined above.
There are no soft options, but there are real choices, and this Government, like their predecessors, are making all the wrong ones. Today, the choice is clear: More austerity or investment in jobs and growth. The Government is for austerity and the austerity treaty; Sinn Féin is for jobs and growth.