Justice group says Government policies creating fractured society

Social Justice Ireland says Government continues to protect the rich while failing to address unemployment and emigration

Fr Sean Healy. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fr Sean Healy. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 08:05

Government policies are creating a fractured society, a weak economy and persistently high unemployment, according to Social Justice Ireland in its annual socio-economic review.

The 360-page document, to be published today, warns that Ireland has seen the single biggest transfer of resources in its history from low and middle-income people to the rich and powerful.

Real recovery, the authors state, requires macroeconomic stability, just taxation, enhanced social protection, improved governance and real sustainability, “none of which will flow from current government policies”.

Father Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, an independent think-tank and justice advocacy organisation, said “Government continues to protect the rich at the expense of the rest of us while failing to address issues such as unemployment and emigration”.

He asked what will recovery look like.

“Will it be characterised by gains in wealth for the few and stagnation for the many? Will our citizens’ access to healthcare continue to be determined by the size of their bank accounts? Will one in every five Irish children continue to live in poverty? Will long-term unemployment continue for years to come, while a lucky few see their incomes soar?”

The report, What Would Real Recovery Look Like? Securing Economic Development, Social Equity and Sustainability , calls for the tax bases to be broadened through a fairer taxation system. It believes the State should move to increase total tax take to 34.9 per cent of GDP by broadening the tax base.

Research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy said Ireland’s total tax take was low by EU standards. “If Irish people wish to have infrastructure and services at EU-average levels then we must realise these cannot be delivered by American levels of taxation.

“Ireland’s total tax take is simply too low to pay for the infrastructure and services necessary to ensure human dignity for all.”

The authors also call for the Government to “adopt policies to ensure corporations pay a minimum effective corporate tax rate of 10 per cent”.

They believe the tax and welfare systems should be integrated immediately.

The Government is accused of “substantial and sustained failure” in its adult literacy target “to have ‘only’ 301,960 adults with restricted literacy by 2016”. The report also insists the State should spend the OECD average of 0.5 per cent of GDP on early childhood education rather than its current 0.1 per cent.

The document also highlights that 731,000 people or 16 per cent of the population live in poverty.

On unemployment, the report says 193,000 people have been unemployed for more than a year, representing the highest level ever. It calls for a part-time jobs opportunities programme to be introduced to enable the unemployed to maintain skills.

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