Business

Irish election: Where parties stand on the economy

(L-R) John Gormley of the Green Party, Eamon Gilmore of Labour, Enda Kenny of Fine Gael, Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein
Image caption Economic issues dominated the first five-way debate between the leaders of the main Irish political parties in the run-up to the election

The Republic of Ireland is going to the polls to elect a new government.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen called the early vote after being forced to accept an 85bn-euro ($113bn; £72bn) bail-out from the EU and IMF in November. He is not standing for re-election.

Whatever the outcome, the new government will have to deal with rebuilding the Irish economy, once known as the Celtic Tiger for its strong growth, but now in a slump after the crash of its property market and the near-collapse of several of its banks.

The cost of bailing out the banks pushed the country's budget deficit to 32% of gross domestic product, something which must be addressed.

While there are some areas of broad agreement between the parties there are also issues where they diverge.

Tax rises v spending cuts

Fianna Fail: Plans to reduce the deficit by raising two-thirds of the money from savings in public spending and one-third from taxation.

Fine Gael: Tax increases make up 27% of its plan; the rest would come from spending cuts and the sale of state assets.

Labour: Plan is split 50:50 between spending cuts and new tax raising measures.

Sinn Fein: Does not provide a breakdown of its plan, but the emphasis in its manifesto is on "a fair taxation system". It also plans to reverse "savage cuts" imposed in the 2011 Budget.

Green Party: Like its coalition partner Fianna Fail, the Greens' plan comprises "two-thirds expenditure and one-third revenue measures".

EU-IMF bail-out

Fianna Fail: Will seek to renegotiate the average interest rate on the loans, currently set at 5.8%.

Fine Gael: Will seek to renegotiate a lower interest rate and "a more credible, fairer package".

Labour: Will seek to renegotiate the deal "to include a jobs strategy, to share the debt burden with bondholders, to reduce the interest rate, and to leave room for Ireland's economy to grow".

Sinn Fein: Does not intend to draw down further from the EU-IMF loan.

Green Party: Makes no explicit reference to renegotiating the rate of interest on the loans.

Banks

Fianna Fail: No plans to renegotiate with boldholders of Irish banks. Has already put forward plans to wind down the loan books of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, and to merge the two state-run lenders.

Fine Gael: Will force certain classes of bondholders to share in the cost of recapitalising the troubled financial institutions. Believes Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide have "no further role to play in the Irish economy" and will wind up both institutions by the end of 2011.

Labour: Believes that bank bondholders should share in bank losses, as part of a renegotiated EU-IMF deal.

Sinn Fein: Intends "to sort out the banking crisis by burning the bondholders in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, abolishing the guarantee, introducing a bank resolution plan that protects depositors and completing the nationalisation of Bank of Ireland and AIB".

Green Party: Makes no reference to renegotiating with boldholders of Irish banks.

Job creation

Fianna Fail: Says its four-year National Recovery Plan will create more than 90,000 new jobs, with the longer-term aim of creating 150,000 new jobs in manufacturing, tourism and internationally traded services. Measures include investment in infrastructure and on-the-job training for apprentices, as well as the introduction of a 20m-euro Higher Education Labour Market fund.

Fine Gael: Believes that creating 100,000 jobs over the next five years is a "realistic ambition". Measures include halving the employer's social insurance contribution (PRSI) for low-paid jobs, investment in water services, telecommunications and energy, and "Welfare to Work" reforms.

Labour: Will create a 500m-euro Jobs Fund "to finance a series of pro-jobs initiatives", which will also provide 60,000 new education and training opportunities to help those out of work. Initially Labour will prioritise investment in education, health, science and technology. Focuses on growing jobs in infrastructure, food and agriculture, and tourism.

Sinn Fein: Plans a 7bn-euro stimulus package, aiming to create 160,000 jobs over three and a half years. This includes a labour-intensive essential infrastructure programme and a 600m-euro Jobs Retention Fund, which would subsidise workers in small and medium-sized enterprises. Job creation focuses on infrastructure, agri-food, tourism and the IT/pharmaceutical sectors.

Green Party: Will create 100,000 jobs in the green sector, including 25,000 jobs insulating homes as part of the National Retrofit Programme and 10,000 jobs through the expansion of the Exemplar (broadband) Network in the next 10 years. The Greens also support a number of measures in Fianna Fail's National Recovery Plan.

Minimum wage

Fianna Fail: Put forward the one-euro reduction in the minimum wage to 7.65 euros an hour in the 2011 Budget. No plans to reverse the cut.

Fine Gael: Makes no explicit reference to the minimum wage in its manifesto. But says it will halve the social insurance contribution (PRSI) for low-paid jobs.

Labour: Will restore the minimum wage to 8.65 euros per hour.

Sinn Fein: Will restore the minimum wage to 8.65 euros per hour.

Green Party: No plans to reverse the cut.

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