May 2015        

“Spring statement” = winter of austerity

Eugene McCartan

The much-hyped “spring statement” jointly presented by the minister for finance, Michael Noonan, and minister for public expenditure, Brendan Howlin, promised much and delivered little. Though it generated reams of newsprint and hours of mind-numbing radio and television coverage, people will be none the wiser, and no better off.
     The government are attempting to dress up further austerity in a new set of clothes. They announced that they will have between €1.2 and €1.5 billion available for tax cuts and spending increases, and this will be done on a fifty-fifty basis. They produced nothing of substance except a number of tables that show budgetary projections up to 2020, which are meaningless. What they are attempting is to predict government income and expenditure as if there will be no change in government policy over that period.
     So essentially, no change, and permanent austerity. The tax cuts will no doubt benefit the professional middle class. A few more low-paid workers will be taken out of the USC, but any reduction in the USC will disproportionately benefit the rich.
     Yes, the economy has “grown.” Exports are up. Jobs are being created—but in areas of low wages and precarious terms and conditions, many from foreign direct investment.
     Emigration is still affecting thousands of families. Profits for the big foreign monopolies are growing, and revenue is buoyant because of the practice of global corporations declaring their global profits here in Ireland and washing them through the Irish corporation tax system.
     House prices will continue to rise, and rents for private rental accommodation will continue to skyrocket. More and more people will become homeless, and the waiting list for public housing will continue to grow. And they will continue to prattle on about the “market” solving people’s housing needs.
     We also had both ministers making the ludicrous claim that they had overcome the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism. The same boast was loudly proclaimed by the former minister for finance Brian Cowan just before the crash. All wishful thinking.
     The cycle of boom and bust is inherent in the system, and no amount of tinkering with capitalism can change that fact.
     No, this was not a signal that the crisis is over and that we are on our way back with the “Celtic Tiger” mark 2: it’s just another indication that it’s business as usual, that the well-off will be looked after, and NAMA will continue to reconnect the Golden Circle.
     The “spring statement” was nothing more that the starting-gun for the the general election.

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