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Minister Brendan Howlin TD Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
OUR ECONOMY – GROWING AGAIN As a Party we made one overriding commitment to the Irish people at the last election. We promised them we would fix this broken economy and get Ireland’s sovereignty back. And, as we proved on November 14, when we announced a clean exit of the bailout, we were as good as our word. After taking office I doubted this could be done. The scale of the challenge facing us was enormous. We have had to take tough decisions, decisions which would have been inconceivable in any other circumstances. We are now turning the corner. Growth is back. Employment is growing. Unemployment is falling. With a fair wind the sacrifices made over the last few years will ensure a better future for our young people. Despite what we’ve gone through, we remain a dynamic, capable and innovative people. Labour can be proud of the role we’ve played rescuing our country from the follies of the Fianna Fail led Government. They cannot be allowed rewrite history and pretend they were not responsible for what befell this country. We’ve done a job we can be proud of. Proud that we were able to keep things going and deal with the social consequences of the greatest depression endured by this country since independence. Our tax system is progressive and despite the huge increase in the numbers in payment we have maintained basic social welfare payments.
STIMULUS – NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION Given the financial pressures facing our economy the opportunity to grow our way out of our economic crisis was limited in the short term. As public spending Minister I looked around for policy options that support jobs and growth despite the limitations we were working under. To raise capital to build a badly needed Children’s Hospital for example, I offered the licence for the national lottery on a longer term basis than before generating €200m for investment in that hospital and a further €200m to promote jobs and development this year. In July 2012, I announced a €2.25bn stimulus initiative to support economic development with the flagship project the new DIT campus in Grangegorman. I am pleased to report a steady stream of progress on the primary care centres, the schools and the roads set out in the plan. Labour in Government has also been the driving force behind the conversion of the National Pension Reserve Fund into the Irish Strategic Investment Fund which will be established formally by legislation in the coming months. The limited sale of state assets scheduled to bring dividends in in 2014 should also provide us with a further opportunity to increase investment in jobs and infrastructure next year.
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PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM In November 2011, I launched the Government’s public service reform plan. As the Party historically committed to developing public services there is a particular onus on the Labour Party to ensure that taxpayer’s money is spent wisely and well. Our public service has responded magnificently to our economic crisis. The Haddington Road Agreement which will generate a further €1bn in savings by 2015 sees pay reductions targeted exclusively at the better off. The plan focussed on streamlining the number of agencies that had development under a Fianna Fail government keen to farm out the process of decision taking. We have promoted the consolidation of services like payroll, human resources with the public service to reduce costs. Every euro we save in reducing administration costs is another to be spent on frontline services. Frontline services are also protected in the Government’s plan to deliver reduced public service numbers. Indeed progress has been so good on this front that I will able to announce increased provision for frontline staff in our hospitals and increased policing on our streets as part of a reform dividend.
POLITICAL REFORM We in the Labour Party know that our economic crisis was not just an economic crisis. It was a crisis of governance and politics too. That is why my Department was set up and we have been making progress elsewhere on the political reform front. The Ombudsman Act 2012 expands the remit of the Ombudsman and embeds accountability further in our public services. We have legislated for the Inquiries Act under which the forthcoming banking inquiry will taking place. The Whistle-blowers Bill, known as the Protected Disclosures Bill, first published as a private members bill in the 1990s is currently making its way through the Oireachtas. The first ever consultation paper on lobbying has been produced and the drafting of a lobbying bill, again a Labour Party initiative, is underway. The Freedom of Information Bill is also before the Oireachtas and seeks to undo the killing of the legislation undertaken by Fianna Fail in 2003. Our aim is to move away from a system under which material is published under request to one where material is published as a matter of routine. This complements our data web and Ireland stat initiatives in my Department where we are publishing an unprecedented amount of public budgetary information. Our commitment to join the Open Government Partnership is further evidence of our commitment on this front In light of the publication of the Mahon Tribunal Report we are committed to producing revised consolidated ethics legislation and work on that project is well underway in my department. When we’re done we will have transformed accountability in this country.
Brendan Howlin TD Minister Brendan Howlin’s Office SIPTU Building, Coolcotts, Wexford
Tel: 0539124036 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: labour.ie/brendanhowlin