The New Year brings new challenges for everyone.  So how do we ‘ordinary’ citizens ensure that we progressively move forward?  The challenges will be many and varied and will cause much debate as to how best lift the fog that covers the nation.

What are these obstacles that prove cumbersome? The obvious one that affects everyone is the fiscal crisis.  Much has been speculated as to how best to tackle this, yet no clear plan has been proposed.  Yes many have mentioned new ways and old methods of equalising the debt burden.  Importantly though they haven’t made concrete proposal in writing or in a framework that anyone reasonable governing body can adopt. 

We are bound by a deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.  This ‘bailout’ dictated that we must reduce our deficit and cut national spending.  This is the key to the entire problem.  The EU IMF deal only instigates that we must cut spending and the deficit, it doesn’t and this is the key, bind us as to how we achieve that.  The IMF suggested various mechanisms that should be looked at such as our Social Protection Bill, but it did not say you MUST cut that department.  As far as they are concerned, as long as they get their return, they frankly don’t care how it’s done.  Therefore, we have some control over how we do it.  I would go as far to say we have full control over how we achieve this.  Currently as an ‘ordinary’ citizen I feel that the government are doing whatever EU/IMF tells them to do.  An absurd notion maybe, but little to suggest otherwise has been offered.

Given this there is full scope as how best we can save money, without squeezing the life blood from the economy and the people.  The term everyone has drummed into their heads is ‘bond holders’ and how they should be cremated at the stake.  Who would take the decision to burn the bondholders for actual fear that they might never invest / reinvest in the Irish economy ever again should this happen?  I know a few who propose this such as Sinn Fein and economic expert Constantin Gurdgiev of Trinity and the entrepreneur Declan Ganley of the Ganley Group.  Vilified in many sectors for proposing this, they continue to suggest that this mechanism should be, at the very least, properly considered. 

Declan Ganley has at the outset said ‘…purge the banks, create new ones and move on…’  I don’t want to paraphrase him, but in essence his plan is to rid us of the institutions that served us badly and create new institutions that can and will be run in a prudent businesses manner that can serve the national needs.  To my mind, if it were this simple then it would have been done.  It is this simple, but the ramification for our neighbours across the continent of Europe would be catastrophic.

David Mc Williams has written extensively about the trouble we are heading into.  He has often in the past been correct, so its only fair that he could well be correct into the future.  Should we then take more notice of his writings and at least ask for his guidance in developing something new in terms of real proposals. 

Eddie Hobbs has been the consumer champion for years and one of the most recognisable personalities on the circuit.  He has and continues to propose frugal means for tightening our belts. Having declared that the property bubble would bring us down, again he knows what he’s talking about.  Therefore, should we not be listening intently to his overtures.  Yes to listening to all, but a forum has yet to set itself up that we can record in a cumulative plan or strategy if you like to get us moving and protecting us at the same time.

I believe that sharing ‘pain’ for each country should be equal, but, if it means bringing down another countries financial system to save ours, maybe it is a risk we must take.  It is a risk, as bar the fact that we would be responsible for their banking crash, we would also be the pariah of the EU, of whom we currently lean significantly on.  Should we take such a step, we must be prepared for the unknown consequences of such a move.  This is why the government would not take such a measure.  Not because we could find ourselves on the fringes of the decision making, as we are currently already there, more so that our reliance on the EU is so great at the minute that fear of having no allies at all would render our economy useless and risky to any countries investors.  Nonsense I hear you cry! Nonsense this may be, but it’s like other proposals, it is a fear that currently drives our existing policies and policy derived by fear only instil further fear.  Policy is then made not to enhance standing or derive a dividend; it blocks and hinders positive progress on all fronts.  Failure is now they mainstay option that all policy is based against.  Lord knows this is a slippery slope to oblivion should social policy development be like this.

Fuel Poverty, lose of natural resources, the lack of a coherent and strategic framework are costing our country daily.  To the world at large, they look at Ireland, indeed the EU as states that are trundling along without a plan.  Causing uncertainty in everyone’s mind causes the ultimate implosion of the social fabric of our country for the lack of the singular concept of hope strangles us all.  I couldn’t believe my eyes before Christmas when business were advertising, after the budget, that ‘the light is firmly out at the end of the tunnel…’ and buy their wears now to beat the budget.  Not just in one add, but many used the p.r. mantra to get some trading.

Social Protection will come under even more scrutiny to reduce expenditure.  The public service sector and the Croke Park agreements will no doubt be challenged.  Then we shall see this sector in uproar.  The transport organisations will at some point slow the countries roads to a standstill and may go further and block the ports to make their point.  The household charges and punishments therein will cause consternation and disputes will grow even further. The additional closures of small and medium business across the country will bring more onto the dole cues, with more to pay out and less revenue generation to the state.  The airports will see more of not only our youth but adult population leave to support their families here at home.  The families at home will also face burdens that cannot be quantified from a social perspective or even a mental health perspective.  Our health system will in all likelihood see more pressure heaped on them with service delivery becoming more unequal.  Political reform will happen, but chances are not to our satisfaction or not to the extent reform should happen.  Riding us of the Senate will do little to ease the reform agenda or the increase the coffers of the state.

This list of problems could go on and on.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that our reliance on the exporting market is one that can’t sustain.  This is proving to be correct as various analysis’s are reporting the decreases weekly.  In 2012, growth is not expected to increase. The ESRI, who from my view have proved of little use, are now retracting some predictions as ‘over optimistic.  The OECD predicted a gloomier forecast than that of the EU suggesting that China were not going to reach their expected growth levels.

What that means for us is, well, here we go again, into another cycle of downward pressure.  2012 must be the time when Ireland stands up, not for its people internally (as we would expect anyway), but to use the opportunities presented to government to put Ireland back on the Global map of countries that do business appropriately, correctly and justly.  That in 2012 we shall see small growth and this small but significant step is a step in the right direction. Constantin Gurdgiev, Declan Ganley, Davis Mc Williams and Eddie Hobbs can all put their thinking caps on, produce something, and drag this nation with the governments shoulder behind them, into positive equity.  My bias for the experts mentioned is yes a bias.  But to me an ‘ordinary’ citizen their words have carried more weight towards the common man in understanding the issues we face than all the rhetoric by political personnel.

Yes I have focused on many negative elements here.  I do this to ensure that if we aren’t mindful of our failings we cannot elude or act positively.  There will be many positive stories in 2012, this I have no doubt.  I do hope that they wont be few a far between.  Many new businesses will be created as has happened in other economic downturns.  Many will find that Ireland can be a signal of hope, if the light at the end of the tunnel is in a state of readiness.  We might see our partnership companies receive extra funding to work more with communities.  Our bureaucratic system may be re-profiled making it more user friendly.  We may even see some tax incentives. We may see a lot of things, we may….

All of this is predicated against the we, not the them.  We must collectively try.  We can and on occasion fail, but try again.  If we leave it to them (politicians, government etc) then in all likelihood we may fail.  I won’t say we are all in this together, as we are clearly not.  If we had the opportunity to be together then maybe, just maybe we could all be the driver of growth in real terms.

What I will be asking of them and all of us is that we now grasp this year of 2012 to make a difference for me, them, us and the entire nation.  Should we at least try if we truly love this country for what it stands for?  I am reminded by our 2009 Rugby Grand Slam when a commentator said of a player that we won because of “…courage, fortitude and shear bloody mindedness…”  Oh to evoke this memory and instil this into the mindset of all of us to bound forth and grasp 2012 by the scruff of the neck and deliver.

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