Friday, 21 March 2008

How we spend our money in tough times

“The Irish banking sector remains robust and has no material exposure to the subprime market”. So said John Hurley, Governor of the Central Bank. Now when a leading banker categorically assures us that all is well, we’re clearly in deep shit.

And we are. For over a year your Savant has been revealing the reality, that we’re facing a horrendous situation. Meantime all the ‘independent’ experts told us the good times would continue to roll.

As manufacturing and construction, the traditional mainstays of our economy, go into freefall, we have compensated well – very well - in exporting services. Success in this arena is hugely dependent on our education sector. But here we’re also building up huge problems, which won't fully hit us for a few years yet.

We're facing a crisis in education - our supposed strength

Whereas fourth level has at last been provided with sufficient funding, second and third levels are starved of the necessary resources. The quality of undergraduate teaching and general support is declining sharply. And we’re falling disastrously short of even basic levels of ICT resources at secondary level.

Our Minister for Education announces ‘no more funding for school computers’. This on the back of an allocation of €252 millions over the next seven years. This, very roughly, works out at about €100 per student per annum. Totally pathetic. This will come back to haunt us, big time. Mark my words.

Whereas we can't get money for education, we have no trouble in more important areas. According to our Foreign Minister, we officially plan to squander almost €1 billion this year on lining the pockets of African despots foreign aid. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions can be found to support the Immigration Industry and to house the thousands of foreign criminals here.

Government finances are in freefall

Given that our budgetary positioned has collapsed from a multi-billion surplus to an even greater deficit in a little over a year, what must a meeting of the Cabinet be like? They review a report (there are several) citing the funding crisis in our education sector, and the pivotal role this will play in our future. ‘Sorry, no more funding available. You must be happy with €30 million a year for school computers’.

Next item on the agenda: €1billion required for foreign aid this year alone. ‘No problem – everyone in favour? Fine’

Why do they do this?

Just from a pure political (is that an oxymoron?) perspective, why do they do this? Especially Fianna Fail, never burdened by ethical considerations of any kind. I truly – truly – do not know.

And to put the final nail in our educational coffin, primary level is in meltdown as existing facilities are swamped by ‘happy little learners’. Your average primary school now looks like the pub scene in Star Wars. We’re spending over €100 million a year on language and integration teachers, but we know from the experience of other countries that the affected schools will become no-go sinkholes within a decade.

And nobody, well, hardly anybody, seems to care.

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