It is extraordinary to think that Ireland's Government generated over €70 billion in 2016, and it still cannot provide all the services that the population needs. Or is it?
When exploring Twitter posts, I tend to notice comments from a multitude of sources surmising that the revenue generated by the Government could be spent more effectively. To one end, I understand their frustration in, say, the current health service crisis. Albeit upon hearing An Taoiseach speak in the University of Limerick last week on the new Project 2040 initiative, my views have changed significantly. In general, Project 2040 is a plan that the Government has implemented and will continue to implement over the next 20-odd years in an attempt to improve Ireland’s position on all topical challenges of the 20th century. Some of these issues include a shortage of GP services, homelessness, high carbon emissions, lack of hospital beds etc. I believe it is only fair – and frankly natural – that the Government must choose on which capital projects it should spend its revenue.
Clearly, fundamental financial issues are disrupting the day-to-day operations of the hospital service; also, schools and GP practices are being crippled by a lack of funding but it all comes back to the central question: where is the Government supposed to source the finances from? Providing shelter for the homeless in the Dublin region alone cost the Peter McVerry trust in excess of €130 million in 2017. Think of the price of building the proposed 42 new schools across the country over the next four years, whilst also committing hundreds of millions to over 1000 refurbishments that need to be dealt with in existing schools.
However, day in day out, people take to the virtual streets of Twitter and similar social media platforms to voice their concerns about an issue (or two, or three…) without providing an adequate solution to the problem of funding. I am not yet a taxpayer, hence it is difficult for me to contribute a comment on the issue of raising taxes, but unfortunately, an increase in Governmental revenue does not come for free.
Positively, it was fantastic to see the proposed 2040 plan that An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his colleagues laid out before the public in UL on Friday, April 13th. Nevertheless, it is a stark reminder of the large amount of wide-ranging issues (and those are only the foreseeable ones) that will challenge us as a nation in the coming years. At the outset of the ‘National Development Plan’ report, the following challenges are listed: Cross-Border and Brexit, Housing, Climate-Resilient Society, and many more. Thankfully, these are all underpinned by one overriding chapter: Expenditure Management Framework, a system which aims to set out “the framework and broad direction for investment priorities over the period 2018 to 2027.”
A point that was made at the event that stuck in my head was that of the GP crisis at the moment and upon seeing the issue arise on Prime Time recently too, it is clear that a reversal is needed of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI). Essentially, FEMPI was introduced as a result of the recession that hit this country approximately ten years ago. It has been the cause of loss of funding and pay to various professions in an attempt to increase Government revenue in a time of financial distress. However, a reversal is now being seeked by GPs (they seem to have been the worst affected) because the economic status of this sovereign nation has been restored to its pre-recessional state. This reversal has been spoken of in good light recently because it is clear the Government cannot afford to lose any more of its doctors, nor does it deem it sustainable to have its own citizens travelling hundreds of kilometres to see a GP.
On that note, it is ignoble for critics to suggest that more money needs to be spent on, say, education/ homelessness/ healthcare whilst also contradictorily and conversely arguing over the Department of Finance's decision to maintain tax rates as they are for 2019.