herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Be positive, sell RTE and slash €5bn - Sutherland

IRISH people must stop being so negative if we are to get out of the recession, said former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.

He also urged Brian Cowen to selling off semi-State companies such as RTE, ESB and Bord Gais.

The chairman of Goldman Sachs said the Government needs to slash public spending by €5bn in the Budget.

He warned that if the cuts are not implemented, we face the possibility of turning to the EU or the IMF for assistance.

In an address to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Mr Sutherland, said that there is a "wall of negativity" the minute he touches down in Dublin.

"This is a moment of truth for the country," Mr Sutherland said. "We need a clear sense of leadership of where we are going."

He commended the Dept of Finance's decision to press ahead with a four year budget plan, which he hopes will give the international markets a sense of security.

"What we need now is a clear sense of direction and clarity about where we are going," he said. "We need confidence rather than uncertainty. The multi-year programme can provide a road map if it is credible."

Mr Sutherland called for benchmarking of public sector pay to be compared to other European neighbours.

And he said that the opposition have as important a role to play as the Government in the months ahead.

"It would appear that there is a significant chance of an election in the not too distant future," he said. "If Ireland's creditors around the world are to continue to lend Ireland money, they need to be confident that any succeeding government will continue to take the tough decisions required to ensure that Ireland can continue to pay its bills."

"If they lose that confidence in the run up to the election, then the incoming government may find that they are elected but that the IMF and the EU authorities are effectively making decisions for them.

"So the co-operation promised by the Government to the opposition for the analysis of the facts and options is of great importance and time is of the essence."

The former Attorney General said the financial services sector had wrought a terrible destruction on what had the ability to be a resurgent Ireland.

But the recurring budget deficit and its reduction was the real issue.

"Those of us who work abroad are not unaware of the fact that it may seem easy for us to offer prescriptions for these issues," he said. "So what I say here, I am sorry to have to say.

"There is a saying in Irish that it is easy to lie on another man's wound but I am very conscious of that and, in any event, like all Irishmen we hate what we see happening at home."

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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