Emigration - one of the tragic effects of the recession

Off the fence
Emigration - a tragic effect of the recession

Liamy MacNally

WHEN will we have a Minister for Emigrants?  Apart from a tragic death there is no scene sadder than the goodbye wave to an emigrant. Most of us have been there, standing and waving in the most stoic manner. Inside the breaking heart is almost bursting as the teeth clench while swallowing another threat of tears.  We are past the blame game.  We need solutions and quickly.  The Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI) has predicted that 40,000 people will emigrate next year, the 1980s revisited. Some of those to leave will be returning to their own countries. Denmark, with a population of 5.5 million, is offering ‘non-Western’ immigrants 100,000 kroners to leave the country, circa €13,000.  To qualify immigrants must voluntarily give up residency and return to their native countries. About 10% of Denmark’s population is from immigrant families.
Last week, the Mayor of Limerick caused a stir when he called for ‘anybody who is living in the state and who can’t afford to pay for themselves to be deported after three months. We are borrowing €400 million a week to maintain our residents and we can’t afford it... we can’t afford the current situation unless the EU is willing to step in and pay for non-nationals. In some European countries, such as Poland, the rate of social welfare is €80 or €90 a fortnight, but in Ireland they get €220 per week and it is going to have to stop’.  Cllr Kevin Kiely (FG) has enraged many with his words and caused a torrent of responses, not to his liking. He rejected any accusations of racism. “I’m not racist, but we can’t continue to borrow €400 million a week and the Government has to put a halt and say enough is enough unless the EU intervenes and pays some sort of a subvention,” he said.
Emigration featured on RTE’s Prime Time last week. There was great debate about the 40,000 who are expected to leave and the many thousands who have already left. The ‘brain drain’ was discussed, as expected. The ESRI claims that young people are the worst affected by this recession with unemployment at 33% among men under 25. 
Sometimes we hear too much about the doom and gloom. Many politicians blame the media for talking down the economy but hardly a day passes without a senior Government Minister howling about proposed cutbacks in the Budget. The ESRI claims that the boom days are gone and will not return. By 2015 our economy will only have returned to 2007 levels.
One wonders about Fine Gael as the main opposition party and its solution. The party claims that the latest Government pre-budget figures suggest no end in sight to the recession with the Government expecting a further 72,000 job losses next year, but there is still no jobs strategy from the Government…
Unemployment is expected to rise to an average of 13.75% next year and that is only because the Government has ‘turned on the tap’ of emigration and is relying on people dropping out of the labour force… Without a jobs stimulus package, the Government’s spending cuts will kill off any chances of an end to the recession in 2010. New thinking is needed and Fine Gael has provided this in our NewERA jobs package plan. This plan involves €11 billion in extra investments in water, broadband and clean energy needed for economic restructuring, environmental sustainability and the creation of 100,000 extra jobs by 2013. With the right reforms, these investments can be financed commercially by new and reformed State utility companies, in part by selling the state companies that we no longer need, like Bord Gais Energy and ESB International. This means that the extra spending does not impact on the Government deficit.” It reads well but is it workable? 
The extra year given by the EU Commission for Ireland to become ‘compliant’ regarding our debt ratio is merely an acknowledgement of reality, the hole is getting deeper. The Government will not be in a position to fulfil Aprils’s Budget promise of ‘compliance’ by 2013. 
The talking phase about job losses is slowly giving way to anger. Anger, for it to be productive, needs to be channelled properly. Blame is too late at this stage. NAMA is as good as home and dry – all €57 billion of it. Oh that the same energy could be put into PEOPLE, especially those who have no option but to emigrate. Those with vision are the people who are needed now. Those who can offer hope, in whatever measure, are the voices that have to shout the loudest.  Thousands more are preparing to ‘take the boat.’ Many of us know its pungent taste and its heart-rupturing feel. History repeats itself because good people do nothing.