By Patrick Brogan
Can we blame Irish Water for the shortages in water in Louth and Meath? Yes and no. They are part of a bonus junky culture that permeates seemingly all of these semi-state bodies. The millions they spent on themselves would be best served fixing the flaws in the system, the very thing we were told they were set-up to do. Like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke, this would have stymied the problem, not solved it.
In a previous article, we spoke about why Ireland spends so little on infrastructure and we’re seeing the problems this short-sightedness causes. Since the foundation of the State, Ireland has done little to bolster infrastructure, nor promote entrepreneurialism. Instead, Ireland relied on monopolies and State run companies, like the Irish Sugar Company. The power resided with large powerful farmers. In self-interest, they didn’t want Ireland becoming too industrialised.
We have also had issues that were outside of our control. A world war, the Great Depression and oil shortages did not help. Throw in economic wars with Britain and a boycott of goods from the North and it must be said, factors like this and Ireland’s isolated geographic location meant it would be difficult for Ireland to become a financial powerhouse.
However, we have also grossly mismanaged our own economy and invested little in our people so as they would have the ability to correct this. Indeed, it seems that the only time a government in this country was ever looking past the next re-election was Séan Lemass’ reforms in the 60s. The 70s and 80s were a disaster though and the Celtic Tiger years were funded primarily on debt, a debt we are still burdened with and a new one added in for good measure. If we were not in the EU would our economy ever have had the chance to grow like this?
We lag way behind international standards. Take a look at the World Economic Forum‘s Global Competitiveness Report for last year. This looks at infrastructure, skillset, market size and other factors. Ireland is ranked 24th. Now, we don’t have the same economic factors that make up massive economies like the US and Japan and we rank behind our other larger EU neighbours like France and Germany, which is understandable. We also are behind other small to medium sized European nations. Take Finland, for example. They are ranked 8th on the list. Our population numbers are similar and we have a higher GDP, $238 billion to their $229.7, and a higher per capita GDP, $51,350 to $41, 973. So why such a disparity in the rankings? Our Governments waste money on material that is of little practical importance to the people, and Finland’s system is more about building up a solid base for the economy whereas we depend and wait on the trickle-down system.
Investing in infrastructure is as much as an investment in people as training and ‘upskilling’. And this is the real issue. Our Governments don’t invest in the people that elect them. Everything is left to a select few because nobody else can be trusted. This is terrible for an economy. I have always said, politicians in this country have 18th-century economics with 19th-century morals. This is already changing, though. The Government had to take a step backwards on Irish Water due to public pressure. “People-power” is on the rise here, will it be maintained is the big question.
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