Monday, 20 December 2010

Do they know it’s Christmas...

THERE is a rather cruel joke that was doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago about Ethiopian suggested that Ethiopians were now fundraising for the poor of the Republic of Ireland.

Of course the bail-out of the Irish economy was a source of national embarrassment, whether or not this was truly justified.

But amid the snow and ice Northern Ireland has also had to face up to the harsh realities of the tough financial climate: the chill Arctic winds of recent days are echoed in the palpable sense that we’re in for a long hard economic equivalent of a nuclear winter.

Not that you would have thought so when the DUP/Sinn Féin ministers smiled and nodded as Minister for Finance and Personnel Sammy Wilson delivered his budget statement last week (by the way, can we not all chip in a couple of quid to buy Sammy a nice red box to hold aloft when he arrives at Parliament Buildings?)

There was a sense that we’d all dodged the proverbial bullet with the draft Budget: the argument was along the lines that it will be a hard few years, but thanks to the wily skills of the negotiating team it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

Which also answers the question as to why ministers need so many spin doctors: because it surely only spin to try to sell that line. The question is whether we – to extend the metaphor tortuously – will seize it hook, line and sinker.

The consultation period on the Executive’s draft Budget is designed to draw us further to the shore of DUP/Sinn Féin party lines before the May election.

Look closely at the draft budget and there will be really, really tough times ahead. Come the time to cast (Editor’s note: please, no more fishing references!) your vote, the full impact of budgetary decisions may not have been felt.

Which will be of no comfort to those public and civil servants heading to the dole office after ‘efficiency savings’, also known to those that detest euphemisms as ‘cuts’.

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