An Bord Snip Nua Roundup: Bad Cop Snip to Good Cop Fianna Fail?

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If you have not been checking out Progressive Economy for comment on the An Bord Snip Nua report then here is a quick run through, starting with the most recent:

In her post journalist & author on health affairs Sara Burke asks if the government really wants to push more people on social welfare further and deeper into poverty and poor health with a proposed 5% cuts in social welfare on the back of the cut in Christmas bonus and changes to rent supplements.

She also argues that if the proposed cuts in health are implemented that it will affect those who ‘depend on the public health services the most – the sick, the disabled, the young, the old, the poor’.

“Revising the income guidelines downwards for medical cards and introducing charges on prescriptions for medical card holders is a sure way of hitting the people who need, and are entitled to, these services most.

We know from research carried out by the ESRI that the medical card is an effective pro-poor measure. We know from an international body of evidence that introducing charges for health care and services dissuades people who need those services from accessing and utilising them. We also know that cutting essential health and social care services now can be more costly, both economically and health-wise, in the long term.”

Full post here…

Looking at the possible effect of the report on children specifically, An tSaoi concludes:

The proposed adjustments may make short-term savings but will only lead to increased problems in the future. I have no doubt better use could be made of resources, but this report provides little by way of proposals to do so. If implemented, it will ensure that we remain one of the most unequal societies in Europe.

Full post here…

David Jacobson makes a number of important points, not regarding the detail of the report but more generally.

Firstly why rely on a neoclassical economist to do the report when we now know that a fundamental belief in markets is partly responsible for the collapse in the first place?

But more importantly:

“Given the short-termism of political perspectives – with a time horizon of about as long as the period between elections! – the cuts selected will be those resisted by the weak. Arguably politicians are influenced by their key supporters, the powerful and the rich. To the extent that this is so, the cuts implemented will be those in the interests of the powerful and the rich.”

Full post here…

Slí Eile looks at who is in the group and says that in advance specific issues were excluded from the report like those ‘groups in Irish society who avail of various tax breaks and reliefs’.

“It would be interesting to undertake a values analysis of the Special Group -

  • What priorities and competing values were discussed?
  • Where did the Special Group stand on the rationale for public versus private provision?
  • What is an acceptable level of poverty, and what responsibilities arise for Government, families and other actors?
  • And the old chestnut – what is the optimum balance – Berlin or Boston or something in between?”

Full post here…

Michael Taft argues that the report is being used as part of a good cop bad cop routine:

“The Report recommends cuts of €5.3 billion. But the Government is only looking for €2.5 billion in current expenditure cuts next year. So when people get all wound up by this or that proposal in The Report, the Government will step forward with a reassuring tone: ‘Yes, citizen, that is awful. We won’t go there.’ See how it works?”

And shows that of the saving proposed in the headline figures will amount to far less if implemented.

“Here, The Report employs an obvious sleight-of-hand. It talks about ‘savings’ of €5.3 billion but the Authors know full well that this ‘headline’ figure is disingenuous. It is not the same as reducing the current deficit or reducing the borrowing requirement by that amount. Indeed, they know that the fiscal effect of these cuts will fall short of €5.3 billion. The Report calls these cuts ‘savings’, all the while knowing that we will not save the amount they claim. It is misleading – knowingly misleading.”

Full post here…

Paul Sweeney says that there is a glaring oversight in the report and its declared parameters – the lack of an assessment of the economic impact if the cuts were to be implemented in full. This is despite the fact that the resources are there in the ERSI to do that.

“The reason there was no economic analysis of the impact of the report is that the extent of the proposals are so potentially deflationary that it may lead to a downward spiral in economic activity, delaying economic growth for some time. It is not beyond the capacity of the Department nor the ESRI to undertake this study now. If €5.3bn is taken out of the economy, on top of other cuts in public spending, including 17,000 state jobs, how many private sector jobs will follow? How will particular cuts hit certain sectors and jobs?

The 5% cut in Welfare is cruel and unjustified and it is particularly deflationary. The poorest spend all the money they have. Take this €850m from them and more jobs losses will follow. Besides, they are not enjoying the fall in the CPI of 4.7% as they don’t have fat mortgages, a point McCarthy himself concedes, albeit indirectly. He takes a longer time span to make the case for such as harsh cut in welfare.”

He also says there is no poverty proofing – no acknowledgement whatsoever of the social impact of these changes.

Full post here

As Dan Jacobson said in his post, the decisions made will be in the interests of the most powerful groups in society, – the make up of which is echoed in the membership of An Bord Snip Nua themselves – whereas the interests of weakest will be barely heard at all.

Photo courtesy of the Irish Times

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Donagh is the editor of Irish Left Review. Contact Donagh through email:

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