Posts Tagged ‘cutbacks

06
Nov
09

Mary’s problems

There was a story on the RTE News lunchtime bulletin regarding Mary Harney’s pride in the rollout of the swine flu vaccination. Will Goodbody reported it, and I’m sure the 6:01 bulletin with carry the piece again.

It’s worth seeing, if only because it betrays this government’s attitude to their unpopularity and the country’s current woes. Reporters took the opportunity to quiz her on a number of issues with the HSE, including Brendan Drumm’s 2007 bonus and more especially the report today that a Letterkenny consultant is claiming healthcare cutbacks are leaving him with nothing to do. On the bonus she simply said the matter is dealt with and she’s not discussing it any further. Regarding idle consultants she suggested people should be finding solutions rather than “identifying problems”.

It’s a familiar theme. We’ve been regularly told by Ministers and government TDs that for the good of the country we should focusing on the positive rather than complaining about the negatives. It’s a global phenomenon for incumbent parties in bad times to confuse the good of the country with the good of the government. Still, Mary’s comments are particularly inane. How exactly do we find solutions to anything without identifying the problems first?

16
Jul
09

An Bord Snip Nua: or how did it come to this?

Today was D-Day, at least in TV3’s words. An Bord Snip Nua (which is surely the worst quango name ever) published its report. And it isn’t easy reading.

So, what happens now? Obviously nothing happens just yet. Can’t let a recession ruin the government’s holidays (the cynic in me is wondering if the timing of this thing was deliberate, as it seems to take a lot of pressure off the government). Still, they’ll soon be reading this thing like it’s the menu in the Dáil bar, deciding who among us should be screwed over the most.

Personally, despite how necessary everyone is saying these cuts are, I don’t see the government taking on much action on them. They don’t have the nerve. Despite the notion that they’re unpopular because of the tough decisions they’re having to make, not many of the decisions they’ve made were really that tough. The pension levy was a soft option. The wider electorate had little sympathy with the affected civil servants. Nama aside, the only one that counts is the medical card for OAPs and we saw what happened there.

Now it’s time to step up and take the toughest decision any government has ever had to face, and I’m not talking about anything in the report. If they want to succeed in selling this bloody thing to us, first they need to come out and admit: “Yeah, we fucked the whole thing up, and how.”

The mealy mouth admissions offered so far don’t cut it. Cowen has already said he would have done some things differently had he know the way things would turn out, but it’s deeper than that. The financial black hole that these guys have created would be impressive in a normal-sized country. For a nation of four million it’s scarcely believable. And no banker or greedy developer can be blamed for this. It’s governments alone that squanders taxes. Likewise references to the global recession ring hollow. No developed nation, with the exception of Iceland and the likes, is facing what we’re facing.

And you know what, despite spending the money, the services they spent it on didn’t improve all that much. Kids are still being taught in prefabs (prefabs that have ended up costing the state more than building proper classrooms would have). Universities and the ITs are still under-funded, which is weird considering our emerging reliance on being a “knowledge economy”. And our health service is not even worth discussing.

If the current government is to survive (and believe it or not, I want them to) and push through these cuts, they need to start by being honest with us. I’m not talking about an apology (though I suppose this is inherent), and I’d rather not go down the road of individual lynchings (reading the report, it’s clear McCreevy, Ahern and Cowen share some personal responsibility). Just open up and admit you blew it, and we’ll figure out where we go from there.

06
Jan
09

rent allowance blues

Yesterday I received a letter informing me that €5 is to be knocked off my rent allowance. Actually, in typical civil service double-speak, what is said is that my “personal contribution” is to increase by €5, which I at first thought meant I’d be getting more money. It was a brief moment confusion and pleasantness, until the penny dropped. I thought, “why on earth would they be giving…oh, I see.”

I really don’t have a problem with this. It’s quite possible to make a pretty decent living when unemployed, and while I have no wish to sound like some Thatcherite critic of the welfare state, I do understand that much of these benefits should be restricted in our recessionary times. Money should be reserved for those who need it and that really isn’t me.

What’s annoying me about the whole experience is that letter came with a fresh application form, and warning that if I don’t submit this form payment may stop. I’ve already successfully applied for this fund, and it was a very unpleasant experience. I don’t understand why I should have to go through this again. It’s forcing people to jump through hoops just to prove they can. Bastards!