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A rising tide won’t lift all boats SJI warns

By editor - 22 April, 2014

Dr Sean Healy and Michelle Murphy of Social Justice Ireland.

Dr Sean Healy and Michelle Murphy of Social Justice Ireland.

Ireland must avoid the boom to bust sequences that have characterised economic cycles in the past, the Director of Social Justice Ireland, Dr Sean Healy has warned.

In a statement on Monday, Dr Healy said politicians need to recognise that a rising tide won’t lift all boats. “It hasn’t done so in the past, and it won’t do so now,” he warned.

A fairer future is possible but this requires deliberate action now to move towards such a future, the SJI director said.  

Commenting on the publication of the Social Justice Ireland 2014 Socio-Economic Review on Monday, Fr Seán Healy suggested that tackling debt, poverty, services and governance should be the priorities in the years immediately ahead.

The 320-page Review titled, ‘Steps Towards A Fairer Future’, analyses the economic challenges facing Irish people and the impact of policies put in place by Government.

It sets out five key policy areas it proposes should be addressed simultaneously if Ireland is to build a fairer future including macroeconomic stability, just taxation, social protection, governance and sustainability.

Macroeconomic stability
At the macro-economic level the Review argues that a reduction in debt levels, sustainable economic growth and increased investment are urgently required.

These would provide the employment and infrastructure that Ireland needs to secure a fairer future.

“An investment programme targeting both economic and social infrastructure, including the construction of social housing units, investment in water conservation, and investment in primary care facilities would be of huge benefit both economically and socially,” Seán Healy said.

Just taxation
On the issue of taxation the Review argues that an increase in Ireland’s total tax-take to the European average is required; however, it is essential that this increase be implemented in a fair and equitable manner by broadening the tax base.

For example, all tax breaks should be available at the standard rate of 20 per cent only.

“Government should move to adopt policies to ensure that corporations based in Ireland pay a minimum effective corporate tax rate of 10 per cent” Seán Healy said.

Social protection
The strengthening of social services, the prioritisation of employment, and a substantial reduction in poverty must be essential components of Ireland’s future according to the Review. 

“Having more than 90,000 households on waiting lists for social housing is totally unacceptable.”

“Government should ensure the supply of social housing, including co-op and voluntary/non-profit housing, on the scale required to eliminate Local Authority housing waiting lists,” Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst with Social Justice Ireland, said.

“Primary care teams are the corner stone of a fair health system. The work done on existing teams is very welcome but greater investment is required to ensure they are rolled out to their full potential which will increase the confidence of local communities” Michelle Murphy added.

The Review notes that there has been a profound failure of governance at many levels in Irish society.

It argues that many people, especially those on middle and lower incomes, feel they have not really had a say in shaping key decisions that impact on them. They now want to be part of the deliberations that produce key decisions.

“Regular evaluation of policies and a rights-based approach are required to ensure every woman, man and child has what is required to live life with dignity.”

“The development of structures that would ensure the knowledge and experience of people are brought to bear on decision-making processes is also required,” Michelle Murphy added.

Finally, the Review emphasises that all policies must be sustainable. This requires the introduction of measures to slow down climate change and protect the environment, the promotion of balanced regional development, and development of new economic and social indicators to measure Ireland’s performance.

Traditional accounting measures such as GNP, GDP and GNI are not sufficient in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century according to the Review.

“Capital investment in sustainable transport systems and the development of renewable energy in order to mitigate climate changes presents a significant opportunity to create jobs, promote sustainable growth and develop a genuine, indigenous, Irish low-carbon economy ” Seán Healy added.

The full text of Social Justice Ireland’s Annual Socio-Economic Review 2914 may be accessed here.

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