01 December, 2010
It has been a tough month.
The arrival of the IMF has changed everything.
That’s why we decided a fortnight ago that an election is required at the first opportunity.
Before that happens we want to approve a budget and the accompanying legislation that allows it to be implemented. Governing requires the making of decisions, and tough ones at that. Currently we’re borrowing two out of every five euro that we pay public servants in wages, and that has to change. The €85 billion in monies from the EU and the IMF gives the State the breathing room to make these adjustments in how Ireland is run in future years.
Some of the measures mark a move away from the dangerous boom-time revenues such as stamp duty on housing that we became over-reliant on during the Celtic Tiger years. I'm glad that the Four Year Recovery Plan includes a Site Valuation Tax to fund local services, as well as an increase in the price of carbon that will allow us to decrease our dependence on carbon. These reforms can help ensure that Ireland is better placed to weather future economic storms.
Meanwhile, as Ireland freezes, it has been a mixed-bag of a first week at the Climate Change talks in Cancun in Mexico. Hopefully week two will lay the ground-work for a comprehensive agreement in South Africa next year. The Guardian has a nifty online calculator allowing you to reduce the UK's carbon footprint here. Closer to home I'm hopeful that our own Climate Change Bill will be published this side of Christmas. Ireland's emissions reduced significantly last year, but the Bill will put the onus on all Government Departments to identify and tackle reductions in emissions in their respective sectors. Over on the "Think or Swim" blog John Gibbons discusses whether climate change is contributing to the big freeze.
I'm heartened by the amount of discussion in recent times around the theme of political reform. This morning I was alternating between listening to Irish Independent Editor Gerry O'Regan receiving a grilling from Ivan Yeats on Newstalk, and Fintan O'Toole on RTE Radio One discussing his petition to reform Irish politics. O'Regan was getting a hard time for the role of his paper in fueling the fire of property speculation, but he seemed to sidestep the issue by saying that his principle role was to increase newspaper sales which seemed like a fairly honest admission. O'Toole was being pushed as to why he wouldn't run for office himself, but stated that he was happier stimulating debate. I'm in broad agreement with the ten points on O'Toole's petition, and feel his proposal to end clientilism is a good one. The New Zealand electoral system seems similar to what he is proposing. Half the Parliament there are elected on a list system where you vote for the Party rather than the individual, and half are elected on a system broadly similar to our own, and I feel something along similar lines is appropriate.
Perhaps the additional radical step of rewriting the constitution is needed to help draw together the many threads of discussion that are currently taking place on the airwaves and elsewhere. It is something that the people of Iceland have embarked upon, and could be a way to tackle parliamentary reform, as well as enshrining ideas around equality, property and family rights that have been much debated over the last few years.
In the meantime 7th December is Budget day, and I'm hoping that Brian Lenihan will carry through on some of the reforms that we've been discussing with him that were mentioned by the Tanaiste on the Week in Politics last Sunday.