Tom O'Connor: In a paper delivered last month to the Labour Party economic conference in Cork, I argued that any return to economic growth would not have any significant effect on reducing unemployment. I also argued that it was unemployment which caused nearly three quarters of the exchequer deficit which net of Anglo recapitalisation amounted to 21 billion at the end of 2010.
In order to increase employment and reduce unemployment starting almost immediately and further reduce unemployment in the years to come, I suggest(ed) three stimulus packages costing €5.23 billion between them.
The first involves the government injecting money directly into viable new high- knowledge industries as put forward by the Expert Strategy Group report Ahead of the Curve (2006). These are in biomedical devices, sustainable energy, food ingredients and high quality food products, telematics, and Information and communications technology. There are currently 250 research clusters which have spent almost €3 billion in government funding for research under Science Foundation Ireland, and very few are being mainstreamed. The best of these should be mainstreamed and vetted in advance. They must start very big to compete with foreign competitors, and should be looking to employ several hundred people. As such, each should receive tens of millions in state investment through the quadrupling of the budget of Enterprise Ireland and the establishment of a state development bank. These indigenous exporting companies would not repatriate profits, and there would be very little leakage of resources out of the economy.
The second arm of the stimulus package involves investment in social, health and educational infrastructure:
The third stimulus package exploits the low cost of housing for the government, and proposes having the banks fund €100,000 per housing unit enabling the Government to purchase 50,000 low-cost affordable homes to eliminate the housing waiting list. The government would initially provide over €5 billion, and when the saving in rent allowance and the recouping of the cost of €35,000 in mortgage proceeds by the banks is taken into consideration, the net cost to the state would be about €1.5 billion. This would equate to the cost of the state holding on to 15,000 of the 50,000 housing units to increase the local authority housing stock for those who would not be in a position to pay €800 a month to afford the mortgage of €100,000 in respect of the 35,000 affordable housing units provided by the state and mortgaged with the banks. Given that the government is injecting an extra €9 billion at least into the two big banks, with the government now becoming the biggest shareholder, one quid pro quo would be for the banks to grant 35,000 mortgages to those on the housing waiting lists. The data is as follows:
Tom O’Connor is a lecturer in economics, public policy and health/social care at Cork Institute of Technology.