Dan White: He has only 50 days to save Ireland. Here's what Enda has to do
WHEN the new Government takes office in nine days' time, it will find that things aren't as bad as Fianna Fail told us -- they are much worse. Urgent action is needed to stave off national bankruptcy and complete economic collapse.
1: Sort out the banks once and for all. It is now almost three years since the "St Patrick's day massacre", which first revealed the likely scale of the problems facing the Irish banks. Radical action is needed over the next 50 days to get the banks lending once again and to stop the haemorrhage of public money disappearing in this black hole.
2: Cut taxes. Since becoming Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan raised taxes by the equivalent of €7bn a year. However, the tax take has barely budged as higher tax rates intensified the economic downturn and pushed people into the black economy. The new Finance Minister needs to start cutting taxes within 50 days to boost the economy.
3: Scrap overseas aid. In spite of everything that has happened over the past three years, this country is still spending more than €700m a year in overseas aid. That's an unaffordable luxury. Charity begins at home.
4: Cap public sector pay at €100,000 per year and reduce other rates pro rata. With hourly rates of pay in the public sector being an average of 47pc higher than those in the private sector, Irish public sector pay rates, which are among the highest in Europe, urgently need to be brought back into line with market reality.
5: Cap public sector pensions at €50,000 per year. By linking these pensions to the rate of pay of the person currently doing the job, many public sector pensioners are being paid a multiple of what they received when they were working. This link needs to be broken and public sector pensions capped at €50,000 per year.
6: Abolish upward-only rent reviews. High rents are crippling Irish retailers, who employ more than 250,000 people. The new government must abolish upward-only rent reviews, which make it impossible to cut retail rents.
7: Clear out the civil service. Friday's General Election saw a long-overdue clearout of the politicians who ruined the Irish economy. But of course the politicians didn't act alone. They were advised by their civil servants at every step of the way. However, while most of the politicians are now on the scrapheap, the civil servants are still in place with their extraordinarily high salaries and gold-plated pensions. That's not right. All senior civil servants should be made to re-apply for their jobs.
8: Tear up the Croke Park deal. A year on it is crystal clear that the Croke Park deal hasn't delivered the hoped-for "efficiencies". With public sector pay still running at more than €17bn a year, a third of all public spending, it is high time that this relic of "social partnership" was sent to the boneyard.
9: Sort out the professions once and for all. Despite everything that has happened, our doctors, accountants, solicitors and barristers still carry on as if nothing has changed. That Irish professional fees are still amongst the highest in Europe is a reflection of the fact that the closed shop is still alive and well. The new government must open up the professions to competition.
10: Cut social welfare rates. Irish social welfare rates are almost two-and-a-half times those paid in either Britain or Germany. That can't continue. Our relatively high welfare rates are completely distorting the labour market and making our unemployment crisis even worse than it should be.