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The managing director of Irish Water, John Tierney. Photo by: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

Despite positive economic signs, Ireland is far from solvent

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The managing director of Irish Water, John Tierney. Photo by: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

The unpalatable truth is that without spectacular growth in the Irish economy over the next five years, which seems unlikely, there is no easy way out for us, no way to avoid the high tax burden and the spending cuts.
 
In 2014 we have to reduce the deficit by another €2 to €3 billion. To achieve that we will need more austerity, not less.

Over the coming year people here will be paying twice the property tax we did in 2013, we will soon start paying for water and there are predictions that all utility bills and other household costs like family health insurance will be more expensive. The burden is not going to ease.

There are two ways the government can do something about this. The first is to slash the size of the state machine to make it lean and mean. But there is no sign that’s going to happen.

After being in the wilderness for so long, the government parties are enjoying their time in office too much to do that. So the vast army of people on the state payroll -- particularly the upper elite — remains largely untouched.

Among them, there is a cavalier attitude to state money. So while most ordinary people are being relentlessly squeezed by taxes of all kinds, these guys still throw around the money.
   
An example which has caused outrage here was the revelation last week that our new national water authority has spent an incredible €50 million on consultancy fees since it was set up last year to take over from all the local councils that now run our water services.
 
Given that it never stops raining here and we have a wealth of lakes and rivers, people here resent having to pay for water anyway. This has destroyed the government’s credibility on the issue, no matter how much they talk about all the new pipes and treatment plants we need.  

But that’s what these guys do. They find themselves big offices in the city center and then they hire consultants on astronomical hourly rates.
 
And it has now emerged that one of the consultancy firms involved was involved with Anglo Irish Bank before its collapse! That is just one example.  

The fact is that there has been very little reform of state spending here along the lines proposed by the Troika. Health spending is out of control, with senior doctors earning huge money. Lawyers are still making a fortune at the expense of citizens, businesses and the state.  

And there are many other areas where vast sums of money are being wasted on fees, salaries and expenses, the cost of which frequently comes from the state.    

Yes, it’s sounds great that the Troika is gone and we have our economic sovereignty back. But there are many people here who wish they had stayed another few years to teach our politicians how to run the country. 

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