THERE has been a lot of talk recently about the government loosening the public purse strings in order to put more money in people’s pockets now that the economy has begun to improve and, even if it may not be judged the wisest fiscal strategy, it will happen this year as we count down to the next general election in the Spring of 2016. Some economists argue that, given the sacrifices our people made during seven years of austerity, the gains made should not be flittered away and something should be kept in reserve for any bumps in the road to economic recovery or in preparation for the next downturn.
There is also still a lot of investment needed for our underfunded health, education and a myriad other services, but according to an opinion poll over Easter the majority of the public want more cash in their pockets and the government parties seem prepared to take this populist line in Budget 2016 in order to improve their hopes of re-election. While more money to spend will, undoubtedly, boost the domestic economy – which suffered most during the economic downturn – one has to ask how prudent it would be?
Unfortunately, this may prove nothing more than a rhetorical question because the government seems hell-bent on going down the largesse route, just like other administrations before it, to buy votes. The last three Fianna Fáil-led governments put party before country for electoral purposes, while the current lot promised a sea change of political reform to put the country ahead of all other considerations.
However, having put the country first for their initial four years in power, Fine Gael and the Labour Party now find that they, too, need to put party first and make the populist choices necessary to stand a fighting chance of re-election. The more things change, the more they stay the same.