AFTER SEVEN months in office, all this Fianna Fail/PD government has to show for is a catalogue of cuts. This is a long way from the rosy picture painted in the run-up to the elections.
The Celtic Tiger is dead and buried, and this government is now implementing its real agenda of making working class families pay the bill.Being Mr Nice guy went out the window within weeks of the elections, when they introduced cuts in the health service. Since then it hasn't gotten any better, as we all feel in our pockets. This election has effectively been stolen and was an undemocratic con.
The only thing the Book of Estimates and the 2003 Budget can be compared to in recent memory is the cuts of Roy McSherry in 1987. And this isn't the end of it. If we let this government have its way, our services will be butchered, important public assets will be sold off for a bargain, local charges and indirect taxes will be raised to the hilt and wages will be held back. A real and significant attack on our living standards is on the cards.
From Bertie and Co's perspective the past year was quite "successful": got away with stealing election, health cuts, education cuts, price hikes, 5,000 CE scheme job cuts, etc while they kept their promise to their big business friends to further cut corporation tax to 12.5%!
However, there is a growing mood of anger and disgust in working class communities, the problem is that it has not been brought together and mobilised. The arrogance of this government is without limits, but if the unions seriously fought they could smash this government out of office.
During the economic boom, working class people did not substantially benefit from the enormous profits that were made. Social partnership was instrumental in making this happen. Now we are facing economic recession, with the job losses and attacks on wages and conditions that go with it. But the trade union "leadership" is still looking for a deal with the employers and this government who want to put the boot in.
If we want to defend our living standards, rejecting the idea that this government and IBEC are our partners is an essential step in order to build a fighting, democratic trade union movement that defends workers' interests. In the communities in Dublin, existing campaigns against bin charges now take on an increased significance, in the context of price hikes, new charges and cut backs. These campaigns could be an important arena for a fight back. This fight now has to be stepped up and linked with the organised workers movement. The same goes for the student protests against third level fees.
Defending public services, opposition to privatisation and demanding that serious taxation be levied on big business are set to become key issues over the next years.
A united and bold campaign of trade union and community activists could put a stop to the arrogance of this government and become a political challenge to the big business agenda of the Irish political establishment.
Xmas Cheer from Charlie
The new government first budget is studded with cutbacks and indirect tax increases. Charlie McCreevy’s “stealth taxes” will push up the cost of living to the point that inflation is expected to hit 6% in the first few months of this year.
VAT 12.5% - 13.5% at a cost of €187 million to consumers.
Motorists - 3c per litre on diesel
€30 million increase on VRT
Motor tax up 12%
Bank charges - Doubled stamp duty on credit, ATM and Laser cards at a cost of €42.5 million.
TV license fee up to €150
ESB up by 13.25%
Prescription charges - plans for a €1 per item charge for medical card holders.
5,000 jobs in public sector
5,000 CE Scheme jobs
First time house buyer’s grant
€60 million for social housing
4% cut in health budget
Promise of 200,000 medical cards for low income families
Government also has plans for €200 a year water charge, and the introduction of student fees and loans.
Other reports on this issue can be found on the sitemap.