23 August 2001 Edition
Where is the G8 now?
4,500 jobs lost since January
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
Hundreds of thousands of Irish people went to work this week, doing probably the same things they did last week, last month, last year even, but knowing that something is different. The news from General Semiconductor in Macroom and Fujitsu's 15,000 redundancies worldwide were just two more chill winds telling us that the Tiger days are over. When you add in other redundancies at Baltimore and the closure of Cardbase in Dublin you have a clear trend developing.
The Tiger growth period is over yet we are all still working, still doing the things that a year ago were part of Ireland's success story and now are deemed to be part of a troubled economy. It was only weeks ago in Brazil that Bertie Ahern proclaimed, ``It's a good time to be Irish''.
This week though, things are very different. Enterprise Trade and Employment minister Mary Harney went to Macroom where 670 workers will lose their jobs by Christmas. The minister set up a task force that would seek to find alternative employment for the area. It is estimated that General Semi added £30 million annually to the local economy in the region.
At the same time, the IDA has been in consultation with the remaining technology firms here to see if there are any other blips on the radar. IDA figures show that 52,000 people work in this sector in the 26 Counties and that 4,500 jobs have been lost since the start of the year. During this time, 2,500 new jobs have come on stream, leaving a deficit of 2,000 workers.
However, the spin off effects a closure like General Semiconductor can have on a local economy are much greater than the initial job losses. Hundreds of service economy jobs are dependent on the income of the technology workers.
There are obvious problems of dependency on inward investment business across the whole island economy and it will take much more than a task force to redress this issue. However, there is also an obvious international dimension to the problem. Time and time again we are told sagely about the US downturn, the slowing international economy. It is portrayed as being like the weather, something to be accepted with a shrug.
Isn't it interesting though that the people who proclaim themselves as the leaders of the international economy are silent? Where are the G8 and the European Union now?
In the EU we have an economic stability pact. Member states have to co-ordinate economic polices. So why is it not possible to co-ordinate an international response to the global downturn in the economy? Why are the G8 not doing something other than organising their usual lavish meetings to actually formulate a concerted response to the economic problems in Europe, Asia and North America? They usually ignore the economic problems of the less developed states and now it seems that this applies to the industrialised world as well.
Most importantl, why are Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney not showing us that the EU does work and that this is an arena where it can and should respond? Why are they not lobbying for a coordinated international response that could save jobs and help firms sit out what we are told is a short-term recession? It seems that they too have resigned themselves to hand wringing on the issue. Maybe you could conclude that they don't know what to do now because they never really understood the factors that created the tiger economy in the first place!