Nat O'Connor: Austerity policies are not working. I was one of 59 signatories of a letter in today's Irish Times calling for Plan B.
Plan B must include productive investment in infrastructure, education and labour skills. There is some money available to spearhead this, in the remainder of the National Pension Reserve Fund and in cash balances held by the Government. Rather than using this money to further capitalise the banks and/or pay off debt, it would be more effective and more socially just for the Government to boost productive investment. Ireland's economy is operating far below its productive capacity and capital spending as a proportion of GDP is now the lowest in Europe. Therefore there is ample absorptive capacity to increase investment in areas such as the provision of next generation broadband infrastructure, retraining etc., as well as other areas that will boost employment in the short term and increase productive and innovative capacity in the medium and long term.
The private sector is not currently investing, therefore the State needs to get the ball rolling. This can be funded from part of the €15 billion or more the Government currently holds in cash and assets, as well as from tax increases on wealth and higher incomes. The Government's announcement that it is looking at the Anglo promissory notes is very welcome, and could also release some money for investment that is currently earmarked as part of the €3.1 billion to be paid on promissory notes this year.
Nat O’Connor is a member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS) and a Lecturer of Public Policy and Public Management in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University.
Previously Director of TASC, Nat also led the research team in Dublin’s Homeless Agency.
Nat holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin (2008) and an MA in Political Science and Social Policy form the University of Dundee (1998). Nat’s primary research interest is in how research-informed public policy can achieve social justice and human wellbeing. Nat’s work has focused on economic inequality, housing and homelessness, democratic accountability and public policy analysis. His PhD focused on public access to information as part of democratic policy making.