#GE16: The last word from the parties on the economy

QUESTION: Health is closely followed by the economy in many minds as a priority issue. Can you set out the fundamental goals underpinning your economic policy in the years ahead?

Green Party: Eamon Ryan – (Candidate in Dublin Bay South)

When every country in the world signed up to the Paris climate agreement, it sent a clear signal that the world economy is going Green. This transition will change everything and involve everyone. We will have to construct a new clean energy system by the middle of the century, and at the same time change our transport, food and industrial systems to become a carbon neutral island.

Making that change is going to bring social as well economic gains. The new energy supply will be our own and belong to everyone.

We can build healthier communities by promoting public transport, walking and cycling. Our farmers are going to be frontline in managing more extreme weather and will get a better price for food that is grown in a more natural way.

Transitioning to a carbon neutral economy will drive economic growth in a fair, sustainable way and build an economy for the next generation, not just the next election cycle.

Labour: Tánaiste Joan Burton – (Candidate in Dublin West)

1. Building a national recovery

As the economy continues to grow, it’s vital we prioritise balanced regional development and the growth of our rural economy.

A good job requires a decent wage which ensures that a worker’s hourly pay provides for a good standard of living without relying on State supports.

2. Reaching full employment

The key to reaching full employment is to invest in people: in those who will be the workers of the future, those struggling to find work, and those currently in work who want to up-skill.

Investing in the digital economy

The digital economy in Ireland is driving sweeping change in the way we communicate, work, learn and live. Digital activity currently represents more than 5% of the economy and supports around 100,000 jobs.

3. Investing in youth opportunities and supports

The young people of Ireland represent our country’s future, but we also recognise their vital role in the here and now. We need to secure more opportunities for training and higher education and the supports young people need to reach their full potential.

4. Championing workers’ rights and decency in the workplace

People are entitled to basic security in their employment in order to plan their lives.

Labour is the party of workers’ rights. While other governments across the EU restricted workers’ rights, we broke new ground with long-awaited collective bargaining legislation and sectoral pay increases.

RENUA Ireland: Paul Bradford (Candidate in Cork East)

We want to transform the domestic economy with a 23% Flat Tax. It is vital to note firstly that Flat Tax is about more than tax cuts. This tax instead is about liberating working people so they can earn more without having the tax man seize half their income. Flat Tax is also designed to be a fiscal agent of social change.

RENUA Ireland wants to create a country where workers from the minimum wage, through to middle and higher incomes can thrive and be rewarded for working hard. This is also our objective when it comes to the impact of a flat tax on job creators, small business owners and innovators can thrive.

Currently the Irish tax system does not work. Everybody admits that and then does nothing about it. The current system stops people from creating jobs or from working harder to improve their life chances.

By contrast a Flat Tax will make Ireland the most attractive place in the English-speaking world to invest and to grow a business.

Some wealthy people will benefit but more than a million working people and entrepreneurs earning between €20,000 and €100,000 will also gain substantially.

Our key objective with Flat Tax is also to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and reduce our over dependence on Foreign Direct Investment by revitalizing our domestic economy.

Sinn Féin: Gerry Adams – (Candidate in Louth)

The fundamental goals underpinning our economic policy are fairness, stability and sustainability.

We will ensure that the economy serves society, not the other way around. We will prioritise investment in public services. We will ensure sustainability through investment in infrastructure, investing €3.1bn in capital projects like our ambitious 2030 Housing Strategy to deliver 100,000 social and affordable homes, new schools, much needed water infrastructure and cross border projects such as the A5 motorway and the North West Gateway Initiative.

We will provide support and encouragement to our SMEs. Some of the ways in which we would foster business in Ireland include providing relief to our self employed, encouraging entrepreneurship with access to start up finance, supporting our retailers getting online, fostering the Craft Beer industry, easing the administration of taxation system and opening up public procurement.

We would also build a fair taxation system, integral to this is the removal of regressive taxes (water charges and property tax) and asking those who earn the most to pay their fair share. Government’s proposed reductions will disproportionately benefit higher earners, that money that could and should be going into hiring Gardai, reducing waiting lists in A&Es and delivering speech and language therapists for children.

Social Democrats: Ken Curtin – (Candidate in Cork East)

A growing number of people in Ireland and international organisations are warning against exactly the sort of auction politics we’re seeing from the establishment parties.

FG and Labour are proposing to massively erode the tax base – abolishing the USC, for example, would wipe €4-5bn off the revenue base each year. They are justifying this recklessness on the grounds of a growing economy and unexpected tax returns. This is exactly what Fianna Fáil did before the crash in 2008 – they ignored all the warnings and pointed to the good news.

Then as now, government investment was too low and pre-election promises were aimed at buying votes at any cost. The result of all of this was a lost decade, and a great deal of hardship for millions of people.

The Social Democrats don’t want Ireland to experience another lost decade. We believe the economic breathing space available should not be used to buy the election, but instead to safeguard the future. We are proposing the tax base be maintained, with some minor adjustments.

Instead of stripping out billions, we should be doing things like creating a modern healthcare system, putting in place infrastructure needed to support business for years to come, sorting out the housing market, rebuilding communities and supporting parents in areas like affordable childcare.

€4 to 5bn a year would let us do a lot of very good things in the short term, and let us start planning for big long term challenges like pensions, flooding and climate change.

AAA/PBP: Paul Murphy (Candidate in Dublin South West)

We need to create an economy that benefits the many instead of the few. The corporations should be made to pay their taxes, a millionaire’s tax should be introduced, a Financial Transactions Tax should be introduced and the tax take on the income of the top 10% of earners (those over €110,000 should be increased).

More fundamentally, we need a different, socialist model of our economy, which is not centred on the drive for profit, but instead the interests of our planet and our people. That means public ownership under democratic control of key elements of our economy and planning for people’s needs and our planet. That is the only way to break the cycle of boom and bust of the capitalist system and have genuinely sustainable growth.

Fianna Fáil: Billy Kelleher – (Candidate in Cork North Central)

Fianna Fáil has outlined an overall package of €8.3bn for the next five years. Our manifesto has been independently costed to ensure it is fully deliverable. Our priorities are underpinned by a commitment to putting fairness and decency back into government policy. We will prioritise public services above tax cuts in government.

Our goals are to create decent jobs and support enterprise while cutting costs for families and improving the services they rely on. We will ensure that hard work is rewarded and enterprise flourishes in every region throughout the country.

Fine Gael: Simon Coveney – (Candidate in Cork South Central)

By keeping the recovery going, the aim of our plan is that by 2022, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the state, Ireland will be a country which makes a job available to everyone who wants one and gives every family the supports needed to escape from poverty.

We are determined not to let Ireland go back – not to those who wrecked our economy in the first place and not to those who would kill jobs with new taxes on work.

Source: ​Answers supplied to irishexaminer.com on Wednesday, February 24 as part of a #GE16 Q&A​