IRELAND’S POLITICS AND DILEMMAS

While negotiations are taking place to form a government after the last inconclusive elections, we may be hijacked from the real problems this country is facing, in spite of claims that the economy is registering a growth rate of over 7% and that inflation is zero.
If western-style capitalism is in decline as corrupt, Ireland, as a “democratic” country of the USA school is not exempt from this malaise. At global and European level, the trend is well-established by now of the continuing, growing inequality between the haves and have-nots. So, it is no more the case of what coalition is going to govern Ireland but rather of how it will govern to really change things. But will it?
The Republic of Ireland is a country of 4.6 million inhabitants, equivalent to the population of a European capital, with the highest foreign investment level in Europe. There are approximately 700 companies, from larger to smaller corporations, that have invested in Ireland. With such a wealth of financial resources, this country should tick like a Swiss watch. Instead there are thousands of homeless, thousands of people in no condition to repay large loans contracted during times of plenty, thousands of people on the poverty line and although unemployment rate is now 9%, a good percentage of workers find it difficult to make ends meet. Mind you, that said, the minimum salary in Ireland of those at work, is around 19,000 Euros, whereas the overall average salary is higher than the European average, with 36% of the active labour force earning from 55,000 euro up.
But there are problems for those who have a low income, that is for about 45% of the working population, including also the recipients of Social Welfare, although their allowances can be considered quite generous, when compared to those in other European countries. These problems are simply due to the high cost of living. The cost of housing is sky high, surpassing the levels reached during the housing bubble of the Celtic Tiger, but not so much for the same unbridled lending of that time, as for lack of supply in the property market.
Consequently rents are hyperbolic, especially in the city of Dublin. Rents are high for plausible market forces plus the human factor called “greed”. The costs of services are for ever increasing, namely electricity, gas, transport, road tax, motor insurance, private health insurance, plus the introduction of new taxes, the most recent one the tax on water. One in the eye for those claiming that inflation is zero!
Moreover, salary levels and increases, with the exception of some cases, are maintained and defended by aggressive trade unions. As salaries escalate, so will the cost of services they produce, while the government is very careful not to intervene in or block this escalation.
A good percentage of the population are forced to resort to private health insurance whose premium are now increasing at the rate of twice yearly. Of course this is due to the high costs of hospital services the insurers have to pay on behalf of insured patients. But why is the health system in Ireland in crisis? Why public expenditure to maintain the HSE is one of the highest in the world and yet it is incapable of adequately providing proper services to people?
The answer is not so much in the lack of beds in hospitals as in the existence of costly administrative jobs which have been created in hospitals that have had the effect of bureaucratizing health care procedures resulting in inefficiencies and waste of public money.
For all these reasons, the notion that the economic recovery, touted by the outgoing government coalition, is now registering almost 8% growth rate and the real state of affairs in Ireland are like chalk and cheese.

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