Last week, we met a number of influential speakers on national issues and the general consensus is that the longer the negative talk of strikes, NAMA and the budget continues, the less likely will consumers spend their money.
Ongoing worry is keeping the economy in recession and a bank spokesman said, if the public could be persuaded a little more, then the VAT and excise duty figures would increase and the need for extra cuts to balance budgets would be less and we could trade out of recession.
A car scrappage scheme and a reduction in VAT for December could give trade a lift and be a boost for Irish retailers in the run up to Christmas. In Dublin, they are heavily affected by the cheap sterling but, as one consumer said, a smart shopper would nearly get the value locally instead of having the major trek up north. Waterford retailers will be hoping that the consumer will spend more this Christmas than they were planning to and give local traders a boost.
Blame game is too long
Here in Waterford, we had a visit from the Fine Gael front bench last week and, obviously, they blamed the Government for NAMA. But with economist George Lee presiding, they did seek solutions from business leaders. They were willing to listen to how tough it is out there and that people do want solutions whether it be for manufacturing where cheaper energy costs are needed or hotels and restaurants that need a VAT reduction. The Government does suffer from inertia and a failure to take risks.
The banking crisis is hitting small business and lack of credit is making many traders struggle creating an urgent need for the consumer to spend more. We feel that blaming Fianna Fail, the bankers and developers may be correct but it will not solve the problem.
The Dutch are very practical people and do find solutions. Therefore we need to take a leaf out of their book and get on with solving the public finances, generating confidence and encouraging the consumer to spend more. It looks now that Ireland will be the last West Europe country to emerge from recession. Why?
We probably only have ourselves to blame. In-fighting and proportioning blame are not going to sort things out and will instead delay matters.
Public service strikes may show some solidarity and be an expression of frustration but strikes will not provide solutions. Such action will also hit consumer confidence and lead to further losses of jobs in retail and services.
It really is time we became more mature and logical in coming to finding a way out of the crisis.