ISME CEO Says Government Needs To Scrap Extra Bank Holiday Plan
Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) CEO Neil McDonnell has said that the government needs to scrap its plan for a new bank holiday and frontline pandemic bonus payments because it will burden future generations with increased debt.
As reported by rte.ie, McDonnell's call came as associate Professor of Economics at the University of Limerick Stephen Kinsella said that pandemic bonuses are a "bad idea" and "a poor use of taxpayers funds".
Kinsella reportedly said while speaking RTÉ's Morning Ireland radio programme, "If you think about the grand challenges that we have to solve - decarbonisation, climate change, homelessness - none of these are going to be addressed by giving people a voucher.
"Think about what the state could do with €1 billion."
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath reportedly costed frontline pandemic bonuses at as much as €1 billion in the Dáil in recent weeks, and vouchers of between €200 and €500 have reportedly been mooted by various political parties and reportedly feature in pre-Budget speculation.
ISME has reportedly also called for unions to "say no" to increased calls for frontline pandemic bonuses, and with more sectors including pharmacists, teachers, transport workers, retail staff and soldiers seeking recognition payments for what they say were COVID-19 frontline duties, McDonnell reportedly said that the trade union movement needs "the moral courage" to say the "bonus plans should not happen", and reportedly called on the government to scrap the plans.
McDonnell reportedly said, "We are asking Minister Donohoe and Minister McGrath to call a halt to all this rather excited talk about €1 billion to say thanks to people. Just stop, do not make the problem any worse.
"There is somewhat of an air of unreality. When you think about the great recession that we all went through just over a decade ago, we went in to that recession with a national debt of €50 billion and within a few years that national debt had gone up to €200 billion.
"In the last year and a bit, we have now added another €50 billion of debt to that.
"The reality of this is that the people that are beating their breasts, and saying they are entitled to extra holidays…in reality they are never going to repay this debt and they are passing it to their children."
McDonnell reportedly added that "people have lost the run of themselves" over bonus payments, and reportedly said, "It is just not worth the cost of labouring another enormous debt on the citizens of Ireland just to say thanks.
"It is incumbent on us all, including ourselves as a trade association in ISME, to say this should not pass and we should not react to the pandemic by simply bestowing a public holiday."
Additional Bank Holiday
The proposed introduction of an additional bank holiday has reportedly also been rejected by ISME because the cost would be carried by the private sector.
McDonnell reportedly said, "The proposal to introduce a bank holiday, as some sort of means to express gratitude to people in the public service, while it's well intentioned, is asking the private sector to carry the can for a cost that should be borne by government."
McDonnell reportedly said, "This is outsourcing to sectors of the economy that may be least able to afford it. And, while you can argue and make a sensible case for the introduction of a new bank holiday in Ireland, we don’t think that bringing in a bank holiday simply to commemorate or mark a pandemic is the wisest course of action."
Kinsella reportedly said that the cost of an additional bank holiday is bigger than the benefit, and, "You shouldn’t do it. The cost to the private sector is going to be in the hundreds of millions and the benefits for one sector tourism are going to be in the tens of millions," he said.
McDonnell reportedly said that some traders, mostly in tourism and hospitality, support the introduction of an additional bank holiday, but many others do not.
Minister For Public Expenditure And Reform Statements
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath reportedly said that the government is planning to put a proposal forward in the coming weeks that "appropriately and sensitively" recognises the efforts of frontline workers during the pandemic.
McGrath reportedly said while speaking on Morning Ireland that while it is "challenging and complex", the government wants to acknowledge that over 5,000 people died due to COVID-19, as well as recognising the "extraordinary efforts of people in the economy and the public services in an inclusive and collaborative way", and, "We don't want to adopt a divisive approach now, while recognising some people did go above and beyond and do deserve special recognition."
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