Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Irish Recession: Who is this Man? Why is He Frowning?

No, this is not a Leprechaun. This, my friends, is Brian Cowan, Ireland's Taoiseach. A 'Taoiseach', for those of you not living here, is akin to a Prime Minister. In other words, he's the head of the Irish government. The buck stops on his desk and no where else.

And, this man is principally responsible for the sorry state of Ireland's current economy.

Ireland in Recession
For those of you who don't know it, or think that this God-aweful recession is only localised to you, take heart: it's in Ireland, too. As of this writing, over 10 percent of Ireland is out of work. The housing bubble - and yes, Ireland had a housing bubble too - has imploded, showering the country with trouble. Housing prices have fallen on average about 30 percent from their highs in mid-2007. What's left is chaos: falling home prices, foreclosures, and a construction industry that's on its knees.

The fall-out from this has been spectacular: unemployment has sky-rocketed. Today, Ireland's Celtic Tiger has ceased to roar. Instead, people who don't have jobs struggle with their bills and hope that they can pay their mortgages. People with jobs do their best to count their blessings. In the meantime, business failures continue to rise; Irish banks - still loaded with toxic debt and their share prices on the floor - find that they can no longer borrow money internationally.

In other words, the country is in a mess.

But Why is the Government Responsible?
I saw an article the other day which made heavy reading: in 2000, the total Irish government budget was approx 20 billion euro. In 2008, only 8 years later, that same budget had grown to over 60 billion euro. Bloated with new public employees and average public servant pay that is now higher than any poor slob working in the private sector, the government is now watching its tax take plummet as the result of a disastrous economy.

And who was at the helm of the Department of Finance when the public sector grew into an unmanageable state? Brian Cowan, that's who.

And who is still at the helm of the Irish government, only now its Taoiseach? Brian Cowan.

The people of Ireland deserve better. Unfortunately, we can only hope that the bloated public sector is forced to go on a strict diet. Just like our not-so-illustrious leader.

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