The live register figures for Waterford City in December 2009 were a disaster – 10,449 people out of work. You would have expected any Government worth their salt to act. You would have expected an end to the slash and burn policies and the taking of money out of the economy. You would have expected an economic stimulus plan aimed at getting people back to work. You would have expected action. Instead we got inaction and a continuation of the same failed policies. A year on from that disastrous jobless figure we have 14,345 people in Waterford out of work. The Government has clearly failed.
Last year Sinn Féin launched local and national job creation documents. Our national plan was well received by small businesses struggling to survive and economists screaming for action on the jobs front. Last September I published a local Sinn Fein document – Getting Waterford Back to Work outlining specific proposals that could in the short and long term help Waterford’s local economy stave off the worst effects of the economic downturn while also leaving it better placed to grow sustainably in the future.
These proposals include helping local firms access National and EU funding, arranging a meeting of local bank managers to discuss in a transparent way banking practises and help get credit flowing, the front loading of key infrastructure and employment intensive programmes, moving forward with transport infrastructure plans, more regional spending in Green Technology, support for locally driven R&D as a new platform for job creation, revive crystal manufacturing in the city and the establishment of an educational taskforce to help those who have lost their jobs.
In our national pre-budget submission Sinn Féin called for a €3.6 Billion economic stimulus plan. The budget came and went and with it no plan. Instead they simply cut the rate of those on social welfare and left these people high and dry.
Since then the country has been in the grip of a crisis with water shortages in parts of the country and flooding in other parts. Our roads are crumbling beneath us while our water systems are failing. Children are being taught in sub-standard facilities. Yet local authorities are being stretched as staff numbers are being reduced due to the employment embargo. Waterford City Council lost over 70 staff members in the last eighteen months.
We need to use public sector and direct public employment to kick start the economy. New thinking is required. We need to increase and modernise CE schemes and invest in state infrastructure. The National Development Plan has to be completely redrawn to focus on the more labour intensive and necessary infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, energy efficiency in homes, remedial works and public transport provision. I could go on.
Bearing in mind the high jobless figure I would like to see, in addition to privately contracted infrastructure, a ‘National Development Scheme’ to employ people directly by the state on public works projects aimed at redressing our infrastructural deficit, in repairing our roads and water networks and in Waterford our tourism infrastructure. The bottom line is that we need urgent Government action to create jobs and get people back to work.