From Socialist Voice, November 2010

The EU’s €6 billion man

The Government has finally put a figure on the cuts to be made in public spending and the new taxes to be imposed in the budget due on 7 December. The European Union has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s in the forthcoming budget and the future budgetary strategy of any Irish Governments for the next four years.
     The Government intends to take €6 billion out of the economy through tax increases and cuts in public spending. This will be made up of €4½ billion in cuts in public spending and €1½ billion in increased taxes, to be followed by €3 to 4 billion in 2012, €3 to 3½ billion in 2013, and €2 to 2½ billion in 2014.
     This will result in a deficit in 2011 of 9¼ to 9½ per cent. This year’s deficit is 32 per cent, after the €30 billion bank bail-out. The ratio of debt to GDP in 2011 could be 21 per cent higher than previously projected, because of the bail-out of the banks.
     It is estimated that debt will reach 105 per cent of GDP (compared with 25 per cent before the crisis), and that Ireland’s total financing needs in 2010 (maturing debt and its current budget deficit) will be the equivalent of 38 per cent of GDP. Ireland is paying more for borrowing, at 7.67 per cent, compared with Germany at 5.21 per cent.
     The Government is attempting to shift the blame and promote the necessity for savage cuts and attacks on working people. Yet the joint head of fixed income at Matrix Corporate Capital, Bill Blain, stated in the Financial Times: “The big problem in Ireland is the banking problem, with the expected cost of the bail-out of the financial sector rising by the day.”
      We can’t feed our children and feed the greed of corporate banks.
     The problem is not the borrowing by the Government to meet spending and investment but the billions being borrowed and the interest accruing on that borrowing to bail out the banks and so to pay back the debts to German and French banks, from which the Irish banks borrowed for speculative purposes in the first place.
     They have created a revolving door, with the state borrowing from French and German banks, then handing those borrowings over to Irish banks, which then hand them back to the very same banks to pay off previous debts.
     Meanwhile working people face massive cuts in social welfare benefits and pensions, increased direct and indirect taxes, and savage cuts in health, education, and other public services.
     In the wings Colm McCarthy waits with his report, ready to have a fire sale of state companies to global financial sharks, venture capitalists, and asset-strippers.
     This is an unprecedented transfer of wealth from working people, family farmers, small businesses, the self-employed, the sick, the old and children to corporate finance capital.
     The amount of cuts and new taxes is twice the €3 billion envisaged at the time of last year’s budget. It also reflects the fact that growth in GDP at the most optimistic will be 1.75 per cent next year, compared with a forecast of 3.3 per cent last December.
     Over the next four budgets the European Commission, the European Central Bank and international finance houses are demanding cuts of at least €15 billion, to bring the deficit below 3 per cent, the limit set for the euro zone under the Maastricht Treaty. The scale of the adjustment and the cost of the related bank bail-outs may well force a sovereign bond default.
     The strategy is to circumvent the wishes of the people, no matter what combination of establishment parties makes up the next Government.
     This is a clear case of corporate bankers subverting democracy, exposing the shallow nature of what they call “western democracies.” As James Connolly put it so well, the government “is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
     On Saturday 30 October the hundreds who turned up but could not get into Liberty Hall for a book launch are a clear sign that growing numbers of our people are losing faith in the establishment’s political process and in organisations and parties that claim to represent them.
     Sadly, there is growing disillusionment also with the leadership of the trade union movement, which has patently failed to defend its own members, while some have openly colluded with the establishment.
     That anger must not be corralled or led into the swamp of parliamentary politics, nor dampened by bombastic and vacuous speeches in a castrated national parliament.
     As the CPI pointed out in its statement on the mass mobilisation of students and the state’s use of violence against them, “this violence from the state must be met with renewed mobilisations, not just of students but workers, social-welfare recipients, family businesses, the self-employed—of all working people, whose living standards are under attack in the state’s attempt to save the ultra-rich from the consequences of their actions.
     “It is incumbent on the ICTU to make sure that its demonstration on 27 November matches the determination and mobilisation that Irish students have shown today.”

     It’s their debt, not ours. The call must be made loud and clear: Repudiate their debt!

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