Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The real game begins

Behold - the Mid West Regional jobs task force, in fittingly boardroom-ish surrounds, pondering perhaps how they have been given as attractive a job as locating the Maltese Falcon at the bottom of the sea.

Despite the best efforts of the Tanaiste to bury any sort of progress in this region through impenetrable waffle and delays, allowing all manner of uncertainty and speculation to brew, the task force is finally here, and they're all sitting at the same table.

That that's considered progress in itself is a fairly damning indictment of how we do business in Ireland.

The group's chairman Denis Brosnan has already sought to lower expectations about what can be achieved in job creation in the next twelve months, which is fair enough.

What little credibility this project has since Mary Coughlan has had her way with it would have been totally erased had the task force started declaring that they would make Limerick the centre of the manufacturing world by Christmas.

But the problem here is bigger than the task force, or even the Government. We've come through a decade of plenty, and only on the other side do we now see that the backbone of our economy is flaccid. We, as a country, do not make anything.

We are facilitators, tertiary advisers, scaled-down think tanks; a nation of solicitors and accountants and architects who have grown to rely entirely on the notion that we would all keep building houses and selling them to each other ad infinitum.

We have no national industry, no natural resources, no reliable bunker of GNP that we can rally around and use as our fiscal spine going forward. Our rise was built solely on other people's money. Now that that's gone, we're in the tube.

We are collectively fooling ourselves if we think that appointing regional task forces alone will rectify what has happened here. What do they have to work with? What promises can any of them really be asked to give?

As the country nears 10 per cent unemployment, and the prospect that the Government might not be able to borrow enough to balance the exchequer come the end of the year increasing, a coherent re-directing of attitudes, expectations and resources is needed urgently from on high.

Just putting cloisters of well meaning businessmen and women out headfirst into an economic tundra, without guarantees that their recommendations will even be properly acted upon, is just not good enough.

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