Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty says that Ireland can avoid a severe downturn, long recession and cut to living standards if the government delivers the correct financial response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Responding to today’s Stability Programme Update, Donegal TD Doherty stated that a return to austerity implemented by past governments is not an option and called for a radical recovery plan to create jobs, build homes, deliver universal healthcare and protect households from private debt.
Teachta Doherty said: “Today’s Stability Programme Update from the Department of Finance offers grim reading about the impact COVID-19 is having and will continue to have on jobs and our economy.
“The report predicts that economy will not recover to where it was until 2022, with 220,000 jobs lost this year and the rate of unemployment next year to be twice that of 2019.
“The pandemic has plunged our economy into recession. But as this report makes clear, the length and depth of that recession is not set in stone. It will depend on the path of the virus and the success of public health measures.
“But it will also depend on the government’s response.
“A severe downturn, long recession and cut to living standards must be avoided and can be with the correct response.
“As we have experienced at great cost, austerity implemented by past governments is not an option. A second round of austerity will result in a deeper recession, higher unemployment and emigration.
“Ireland requires a radical recovery plan to create jobs, build homes, deliver universal healthcare and protect households from private debt.
“Supporting incomes, protecting families and getting people back to work will require investment in housing, infrastructure and greater supports for sectors and businesses, such as hospitality and tourism, that have suffered most during this crisis.
“Cuts to income and job loss cannot result in increased household debt and borrowing. We have already seen banks and moneylenders profiteering from the misfortune of laid-off workers.
“Any response to this crisis must address the problem of household debt by offering liquidity supports – not just to businesses, but to families also.
“We cannot afford a recovery for the rich, big business and the banks at the expense of workers and families.
“Liquidity provided to businesses must be targeted to support employment, not shareholders. Those supports must be implemented now.
“Current schemes announced by government only defer payments or increase debts that will require repayment in challenging times.
“Further supports must be provided for our small businesses. This crisis cannot become an opportunity for the few to profiteer at the expense of the many.
“We have already seen banks seek to profit from this crisis by charging additional interest on households that avail of mortgage breaks, with more money owed to the banks after this crisis than would otherwise been the case.
“A government must ensure that its response to this crisis protects workers, families and the low paid.
“Austerity is not the answer. The answer is a stimulus package that creates jobs by investing in housing and infrastructure, provides liquidity to small businesses, increases the wages of low-paid workers and protects households from debt.”