Parties lay out economic stalls ahead of election

 

The main political parties have spent the second day of the general election campaign dissecting and criticising each others economic proposals.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan accused Fine Gael of being disingenuous in saying that it was a low tax party. He alleged it had departed from a previously stated aim of implementing three times as much in spending cuts as in extra taxes.

Fine Gael spokesman on enterprise, jobs and economic planning Richard Bruton said today the party was planning almost €2.60 in spending cuts for every €1 it raised in higher taxes to close the deficit.

In its five-point plan for job creation, Fine Gael pledged no increase in direct taxes on enterprise or income and said it would consider a single tax for micro businesses.

Mr Lenihan said Fine Gael had never explicitly committed to a 3 to 1 ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes in a policy document but “it appears that they were happy to give the impression that’s where they stood.”

“It is totally disingenuous and shows that Fine Gael can’t be trusted on the adjustment,” he added.
Speaking at a press conference on Fianna Fáil's economic policies, Mr Lenihan claimed Fine Gael's plan committed it to €3 billion in extra taxes over the next Dáil. He said this figure was the same as proposed by

Fianna Fáil and, on that basis, Fine Gael could not claim to have a low tax economic policy.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny denied his party was standing behind Fianna Fail policy, which had regularly proven to be wide of the mark.

Mr Lenihan defended his party saying it had already done the “heavy lifting” required to bring the national finances under control and had achieved two-thirds of the €30 billion spending adjustment required.

Labour this morning published a fiscal strategy its election headquarters in Dublin, where Eamon Gilmore accused Fianna Fáil of bringing the country to the brink of economic ruin. He claimed the Government had failed to make a proper assessment of the universal social charge.

Mr Gilmore said Labour would - if elected to government - seek to address the budget deficit on a 50-50 basis of cuts and tax increases. Mr Gilmore added that the EU-IMF bailout plan as currently structured would not work and proposed that Ireland have until 2016 to correct its budget deficit.

The Green Party was quick to accuse Labour of adopting a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” approach to the economy and said it was “conning the public into thinking that budgets under their party will be painless”.

Green Party leader John Gormley also said a Labour claim that the EU/IMF bailout could be renegotiated was “a lie”. He insisted a “unilateral re-negotiation” of the deal “just isn’t on the cards”.

Fine Gael banking spokesman Damien English said Labour’s policies to spread out the budgetary adjustment to 2016 would see Ireland losing even more economic sovereignty.

“Not only is Labour in denial, it’s also not being entirely truthful. By delaying the adjustments, Labour will impose an extra €400-500 million of interest costs by 2016. And that is something that voters really do not want to hear,” Mr English said.

Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said the Labour proposals would leave the State mired in debt.

Meanwhile, Mr Gormley told the Green Party campaign launch today that he is not contemplating an “incineration” of the party in the election and that its six TDs could be returned.

He said he did not accept that a Fine Gael-Labour government as the only possible outcome of the election. “The outcome is still far from certain,” he said.

Sinn Féin said its policies had the potential to create 160,000 jobs and many more training places. Party vice president Mary Lou McDonald said its 10-point plan, which was launched outside Leinster House, clearly detailed how policies would make huge inroads into addressing the current unemployment crisis.

“We are the only party proposing to invest in a jobs stimulus fund," the Dublin Central candidate said.

“While other parties argue over cuts, we know that we cannot cut our way out of recession.” The plan envisages €7 billion being transferred from the national pension reserve fund for a jobs stimulus package, as well as funding to create jobs in the agri-food and health sectors.

Separately, the latest Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI poll, which shows Fianna Fáil has dropped to another record low, shows Fine Gael is on course to lead the next government.

The Labour Party, Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Greens have all lost support since the last poll but there has been a significant increase in those saying they will vote for Independents/Others.