5 April 2001 Edition

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Spending setback

Lost in the news about Foot and Mouth, the US backtracking on their environmental protection commitments and other important stories was the news that the Dublin Government is to cutback spending on capital and infrastructure development projects such as childcare, roads and housing.

More than £300 million has been slashed from these projects. The £61 million earmarked for increasing and funding childcare provision has been more than halved to £25 million.

Sinn Féin's Vincent Wood attacked the cuts in funding particularly in the area of childcare. The Mayo representative said: ``Childcare provision is a matter of serious concern and if the government are genuinely interested about the quality of life of people then it must become a priority''.

``Sinn Féín has been calling on the government to consider funding for a statewide Community Childcare programme. It is an option that warrants further exploration and consultation with local communities for a proper investigation of their needs.''

``Real choice would involve opening up a range possibilities for childcare. Community-based and centrally-funded or grant aided childcare centres should be one of those options,'' said Wood.

Wage restraint double standard

Its lock up your workers time again. The Central Bank and Small Firms Association (SFA) both jumped on the wage restraint bandwagon this week.

The Central Bank's spring report warns that ``we have to be concerned about a very big hike in wages''. They continue by telling us that ``rising at a rate of 10%, wages are growing at four times the EU average and will increase costs''.

The SFA have chimed in with the Central Bank. Their annual survey blamed, ``unrealistic salary expectations'', as the reason for a predicted 29% fall in the number of jobs small firms expect to create this year.

What both reports do not recognise is the low rate of pay many workers were being paid in the 26 Counties and that many are seeking just to catch up after years of restraint. This catch up process has been shown in recent data about wage costs across the EU.

An EU statistical report published in March and previously highlighted in An Phoblacht showed that wage costs in the 26 Counties are among the lowest in the EU.

Of the 15 EU states, only Portugal, Spain and Greece have lower average labour costs than the 26 Counties. Labour costs in the 26 Counties were also lower than the US average.

It seems that the Central Bank was obviously bluffing about the EU comparisons or had not done enough research on producing a real comparison of wage costs within the EU.

Once more it is a case of `don't believe the hype'.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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