Public pay and the cost of living


Sir, – Maybe if as much attention were paid to reducing the actual cost of living in Ireland – such as the ridiculous housing, health, travel, childcare, professional and legal fees costs people face day to day – instead of finding ways to increase the fixed costs for the current account, and in turn the tax burden, the issue of public sector (or indeed private sector) pay pressure wouldn’t be so important.

It is a pity that Irish public policy is so hampered by a discouragement of intellectual curiosity and a lack of language skills that it seems incapable of learning from policy solutions in non-English speaking countries and instead is obsessed with copying policy in the US or UK, which are not a good fit for a small country.

If policymakers expanded their horizons a bit further to such places as The Netherlands, Denmark, Israel and Austria, for example, they would find that other countries do things differently and have more rounded economies and public sectors. We can learn a lot from them.

Instead of the Government setting out its stall on the basis of how much of the taxpayers’ own money it is willing to use to pay for their acquiescence, it would be nice if the Government was capable of setting out a coherent plan for lowering living costs in Ireland.

Similarly, instead of the unions and the public policy setting up its stall on the basis of how much it wants, wouldn’t it be nice if the unions and public sector put forward its plans for lowering the cost of living in Ireland so that people could meet their needs within their income without needing State help?

Then, instead of making up a fake argument to delay an agreement until the small hours on the final day, to prolong the fantasy of a policy debate between grown-ups, we could instead have the Government and the unions debating the solutions that would reduce the cost of living burden on Irish people, which in turn would give people greater spending discretion and that would in turn lessen demands for fixed cost wage increases on the same taxpayer. People demand pay rises because their cost of living is too high.

The Government has direct control over the cost of living for the largest expenses of Irish families, covering housing, transport, health and childcare; and the Government, if it wanted to, could solve the problem of those high living costs, which are not reflected in a high-quality services.

But of course we don’t elect people to tackle national issues of that calibre, and even if we did, while Enda Kenny clings to office, there is a vacuum at the centre of political power. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,