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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Aug 23, 2010 - 8:24:15 PM

Irish Economy: Cowen says his policies will bring “rapid growth” in 2010; Rejects “dead-end politics of the past” but provides no credible vision of change for the future
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
May 22, 2009 - 6:22:03 AM

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Taoiseach Brian Cowen launching the Fianna Fáil local elections' manifesto in Dublin, on Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said on Thursday night that Ireland’s economy could return to “rapid growth” as early as next year as a result of the Government’s financial policies. He accused Fine Gael and Labour of being obsessed with the “dead-end politics of the past,” and he claimed that the sustained criticisms of both parties in themselves had damaged the reputation of Ireland. While rejecting a focus on the past, which would require an answer for monumental failure, he provided no credible vision of change for the future.

Politicians need to have brass necks and the man who with colleagues Bertie Ahern and Charlie McCreevy, destroyed the best opportunity in history to put the Irish economy on a sustainable basis said:“We do not need national leaders who don’t seem to understand that when you recklessly attack our economic condition, those attacks are not only heard by voters, they are also heard by investors in boardrooms abroad.

“Loose talk costs jobs. So that is the choice: stability, progress, and co-operation from Fianna Fáil; or instability, retreat, and division from the Opposition.”


Ireland is overwhelmingly dependent on the US economy and an assessment on Thursday of the US economy, indicated that Cowen's grasp of economics is as tenuous as it was when he served as finance minister. An alternative view would be that as applied during the boom, Irish politics always trumps economics.

US Economy: V-shaped recovery unlikely: Recession has further to go; Prolonged convalescence likely

Some cheek from a man who earlier this week said the Government had recognised by 2007 the dangers posed by its heavy dependence on housing related taxes and revenue but he claimed it was about to plan for a soft landing – but those intentions were immediately destroyed by an international monetary catastrophe.

In July 2007, one month before the onset of the so-called credit crunch, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had wondered publicly why "cribbers on the sidelines" didn't commit suicide. Cowen and other ministers never took issue with Ahern's ignorant cheeerleading of the construction boom and the latter eventually resigned in 2008, not because of any pressure from the Finance Minister but because the tribunal evidence had made Ahern a national joke.

Cowen was asked on Tuesday to specify if he had ever made a mistake domestically.

He has previously accepted responsibility for every decision he has taken in Government, but has repeatedly declined to apologise for how the economy crashed, instead blaming the global financial crisis.

“The reliance on the construction sector, which had grown to 12% of GDP, was something we were in fact going to move down, over time, to get a soft landing – which isn’t available to us now because of the financial crisis that has hit us,” Cowen said, launching his party’s local election manifesto.

First, get the facts right!

DKM Economic Consultants' 2007 estimate was that Irish construction output represented 22.6% of GNP and 19% of GDP, when measured in gross output terms. The construction to GDP ratio was the second highest proportion (after Spain) in the European Union and ranged from less than 8% in Sweden to over 21% in Spain and with an average ratio of around 12% in Western Europe and less than 11% in the UK.

On Thursday night in Slane, Cowen said that “tough decisions” taken by the Coalition were the right decisions, notwithstanding attacks from the “bad news brigade” of the Opposition and economic media commentators.

“I want to explain to you that we are making real progress, and that we have a way out that is working,” he said.

“The ESRI and other commentators are now predicting that the decisions taken by the Government, allied with the flexibility of our economy and our people in reacting to the crisis, mean that we are positioned to return to growth, even rapid growth, as the world economy turns, as early as next year.”

Cowen said Fianna Fáil was the only party focused on finding a solution for the economic crisis.

“The Opposition want us to get bogged down in the politics of blame. They are obsessed with the who, the how and the why of this recession. Their obsession with the past is dead-end politics that does not create one job.”

And how many jobs has he destroyed?

What of course  Cowen is offering is the “dead-end politics of the past” ; blame others for the bad news, claim full credit for the expected good news and maintain the status quo.

Cowen and his colleagues have sat in Cabinet since 1997 and through their negligence and focus on short-term self interest, have destroyed the lives and hopes of tens of thousands of people. They of course don't see a need to apologise to anyone. Even during this severe economic crisis, they have not produced one significant reform but claim credit for dousing the fire that they left start and rage out of control.

A few green shoots on the horizon and it will soon be "mission accomplished."

As they said in the film Back to the Future, "Where we're going, we don't need roads.'"

But Cowen doesn't even offer a credible vision for the future and blather on the hustings, to again fool the people, is the easy part of governing.

Any takers for snake oil?

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