Tuesday, 11 May 1982
Dáil Eireann Debate
The preparation of the plan is the responsibility of a Government committee, under my chairmanship, to which a  steering group consisting of departmental representatives and experts will report. Relevant Departments and State agencies are involved in the preparation of the plan.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Federated Union of Employers, the Confederation of Irish Industry, the Irish Farmers' Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, and the National Economic and Social Council have been consulted and will continue to be consulted in the preparation of the plan.
(1) the generation of the maximum increase in sustainable employment; (2) the restoration of the balance of payments to more acceptable levels; (3) the reduction of the rate of inflation; (4) the maintenance of living standards and making them more equitable.
Mr. G. Mitchell: Would the Taoiseach inform the House if it is true that unemployment rose by 40 per cent during his last short term as Taoiseach and if he will assure the House that he will take every step, in preparing this economic plan, to see that there is no repeat of that performance?
Dr. FitzGerald: Is the Taoiseach aware that there will be considerable concern, on the part of the National Youth Council and other bodies representing young people, at his omission from the list of social partners consulting and to be consulted of these bodies who, when we were in Government it was agreed would become full social partners with the same  right of consultation as the others which he mentioned? Does he not accept that the dropping of the youth bodies as social partners is a retrograde step?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy is misreading the situation. I have always, as Taoiseach, made it a permanent feature of my activities to meet with the representatives of the youth organisations and discuss fully with them any matters of concern to them. I will continue to do that. Anybody involved who would wish to make any submissions in regard to the economic plan which is being prepared is, of course, welcome to do so. However, in order to get work under way we have to make an approach to a number of specific organisations with a view to consulting them.
Dr. FitzGerald: Does the Taoiseach not accept that this is a step backwards? What he has now said makes one feel that the omission of these bodies from consultation is deliberate and that they are simply to be relegated to other miscellaneous groups who may, if they so wish, make submissions. This is something which will give rise to intense dissatisfaction among young people whose interests are not represented by the various interest groups which the Taoiseach has mentioned. Will he reconsider his decision and consider entering into full consultation with them regarding the plan, as it is they who, above all, are concerned with the plan and its consequences?
The Taoiseach: I have a well established practice of full consultation with representatives of youth organisations in regard to all matters of economic and social importance and will continue to do that.
Mr. Quinn: Could I ask two questions? Firstly, will the plan, in terms of its philosophical approach to the economic management of our economy, be significantly  different from previous plans published by the Fianna Fáil administration? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, could the Taoiseach indicate in which way specifically, with particular reference to the direction of financial institutions in our society?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy will appreciate that the plan, on the preparation of which we are engaged at present, must differ significantly from previous plans in that circumstances have radically altered. For instance, I am sure the Deputy will recall that the First Programme for Economic Expansion set a very modest target of a 2 per cent increase in gross national product. A figure of that sort would hardly be relevant to our circumstances today. The major difference is that the plan which we are preparing now will be directly related to current circumstances and conditions and current needs and requirements. The Deputy also asked about financial institutions. Our financial situation and the public finances will be an integral part of the plan, and arrangements have been made for full consultation in that regard.
Mr. Higgins: Arising from the Taoiseach's reply and his association of the suggested plan with previous programmes, perhaps he would tell the House how it will qualitively differ from previous programmes and, if it is a programme that is similar to the others in methodology, why is it being called a plan? If it is being called a plan, will it list social objectives that the first programme to which the Taoiseach has alluded did not state? Will it have a statement as to the combination of resources and likely outcomes that we might expect in a plan?
The Taoiseach: I do not want to go too much further into details at this stage, except perhaps to repeat for the Deputy what I gave as the broad outline objectives of the plan, namely, the generation of the maximum increase in sustainable employment, the restoration of the balance of payments to more acceptable levels, reduction in the rate of inflation and  maintenance of living standards and making them more equitable. I have already explained that this is a short- or medium-term plan to try to deal with the immediate problems confronting us and, at the same time and in parallel, we will be preparing long-term planning structures which would probably be a more appropriate place in which to incorporate the Deputy's suggestion about social requirements.
Mr. L'Estrange: Does the Taoiseach believe for one moment that this plan will be any more successful than their plan for full employment in the 1977 manifesto? Is the Taoiseach further aware that in 1977 when there were 103,000 unemployed, the Fianna Fáil manifesto promised to reduce unemployment in the next four years by 80,000? If Fianna Fáil had kept their promise, there would have been only 23,000 people unemployed in 1981 when we took office. Is the Taoiseach further aware that there were 127,000 people unemployed and that they were 100,000 out in their promise at that time? Can the Taoiseach say what he intends to do now to ensure full employment for all?
The Taoiseach: Our entire approach to economic planning is based on the need to invest in this country, to raise the level of economic activity and provide increased employment opportunities for our people.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy may be unaware of the fact that in recent years there has been an economic depression, unprecedented in its extent and intensity, and unemployment figures for the OECD area at present represent the seriousness of that economic recession. Our economic planning and endeavours are directed towards bringing this country as  safely as possible through that economic recession, and we are achieving considerable success in those endeavours.
Mr. G. Mitchell: The Taoiseach did not reply to the question. Could he tell us if, despite the fact that 25,000 people were taken into the public service for jobs which did not really exist, the 40 per cent figure I quoted for the increase in unemployment during his period in office is accurate? If so, what special steps does he intend to take in this economic plan to prevent a recurrence of that outrageous performance?
Dr. FitzGerald: Obviously we cannot have a reply. The Taoiseach referred to investment as being the solution to the problems of unemployment and growth. Is the Taoiseach not aware that, despite the fact that during the period of the Fianna Fáil administration the ratio of our national output devoted to investment was one of the highest among developed countries, nevertheless, during that period unemployment rose very sharply? Does this not suggest that the quality of investment during the period of Fianna Fáil Government must have been extremely poor if it yielded such a negative return?
The Taoiseach: The fact that we have such a high rate of investment — probably the highest in the OECD area next to Japan — is something we should value. It is important that we should continue to pursue high investment programmes. I am somewhat puzzled by the approach of Deputies to these questions and to my outlining of our efforts. We are endeavouring to have some sort of coherent approach and an organised effort to deal with current economic problems. I imagine that Deputies on all sides of the House would welcome our efforts in this regard. I have endeavoured to give the House as much information as I can about how we are going about the preparation of the plan and it would not be unreasonable to expect some encouraging support from Deputies or at least some constructive suggestions in regard to the plan.
Mr. Quinn: Would the House be correct in assuming that this Government's approach will not be significantly different from that of previous Government in relation to the degree of State control of natural and financial resources, that the exercise the Taoiseach is currently embarking on is similar to what could be described as indicative programming, and that the State, under his direction, will not take full charge of financial institutions and direct investment in a positive, planned manner?
The Taoiseach: No, the plan on which we are engaged at present will be more than indicative. I want to assure the Deputy that we regard the financial aspects of the plan as being of considerable importance and we are arranging to have an input to the plan from financial institutions.
|Last Updated: 14/09/2010 10:58:51||Page of 118|