Economic facts and political realities


Sir, – Pat Leahy (“Prudence loses out as politicians please the people”, Opinion & Analysis, December 8th) highlights the conflict between the macro-budgetary approach to economic sustainability espoused by the Fiscal Advisory Council (FAC) and the “political realities” listed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in his rebuttal of the council’s recent report.

The shrugging of shoulders and saying that the FAC chairman Seamus Coffey does not have to get elected seem to be the standard response of politicians at these times. There appears to be an acceptance that we are condemned to endless cycles of boom and bust because the voters will not re-elect those who take unpopular decisions. This is a cop-out.

Very difficult economic decisions have been taken in the past when they were necessary, for example in the 1980s and again after the recent crash in 2008. Irish voters are not stupid. They did not like the “medicine” being administered in those tough times, and may have had genuine concerns about some of the specific decisions, but realised that overall the measures were necessary, and clear communication was a key element in creating the environment of acceptance.

The flagging of measures to minimise the effects on the poorest in society of these economic adjustments was also key to their acceptance by the public at large. Making hard decisions is a fundamental part of governing, and explaining the rationale for such decisions is key to improving the likelihood of their acceptance. Continuing to take such a jaundiced view of economists’ reports that highlight valid concerns is not sustainable. Instead, all politicians need to spend a lot more time and effort on communicating clearly the reasons for tough decisions taken, and the long-term benefits for all citizens of those decisions.

A stronger focus on such communication across all media platforms is a crucial first step towards breaking the current cycle of boom and bust. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.