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JCFJ launch website budget feature

JCFJ on recessionAlong with a statement suggesting priorities for the national budget, Tony O’Riordan, SJ, of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, has just launched a new website feature: ‘Monitoring Cutbacks in Frontline Services’. It aims to record the social costs of cutbacks and closures of projects, programmes and services as a result of the curtailment or cessation of public funding. See it at: www.jcfj.ie/cutbacks. For a fuller statement, read on.

Recession Response Requires Radically Different Values – says Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, as it launches website to record cutbacks in frontline services

The current economic crisis challenges this country with profound questions as to the values and priorities we should adopt to guide us through these difficult times, says the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in a Statement issued today. In the Statement, ‘Justice in Recession?’, the Centre says that great uncertainty exists as to what policies can and should be pursued in the context of the current crisis. However, what we can be certain about is what will happen if we as a society continue to adhere to some of the values that were allowed to gain ascendancy during the Celtic Tiger years. It is essential, it says, that we do not allow self-interest, the protection of sectional concerns, and the bowing to the wishes of the most powerful, to predominate at this time. Such an approach would mean that those who gained least from the economic boom would be asked to pay most in the downturn. Instead, the Statement says, the values of social solidarity, fairness and compassion must strongly underpin the economic and social policies devised to cope with the crisis.

Launching the Statement, Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ, Director of the Centre, commented: “Over the next two years, at a minimum, sacrifices will have to be made and people’s lives will be affected by these. But we must ask: ‘Which sacrifices?’ and ‘Whose lives?’” He added: “In a time when everyone in Irish society will feel the effects of the crisis – and would prefer not to – those who are better off need to be aware that there are others who have a greater moral claim to be insulated from the impact of the downturn. Without this public awareness, the environment necessary for policy responses that may be difficult and unpopular, but are just and in the interest of the common good, will not exist.

Recalling that last week the Taoiseach described the current situation as a ‘defining moment’ in our nation’s history, Fr O’Riordan said that one of the tasks of this time is to engage in serious debate about the overarching political and economic philosophies that should guide us into the future. He commented that the global economic crisis has challenged the ideology, which was pervasive for the last three decades, that government should have no role, or only a minimal role, in regulating the market.

“The wisdom of the maxim that the ‘market is a good servant but a very bad master’ is now being acknowledged by more and more people”, Fr O’Riordan said. He added there was now a window of opportunity in which we can debate in a more open way the balance required between state intervention and business enterprise, and between individual opportunity and social responsibilities. “Above all”, he said, “we need to strongly assert that equality, fairness, and economic and environmental sustainability have to be at the heart of our definition of development.

The Jesuit Centre’s statement says that the most immediate test of our willingness to place solidarity and fairness to the fore will be the Budget to be introduced on 14 October. It argues it should not be considered ‘unthinkable’ that there would be an increase in income taxes for those on high incomes, especially the very top earners who gained so much during the boom years. Moreover, the current, very costly, array of tax incentive schemes, which by definition are availed of mainly by those who are already well-off, should be critically examined, and only those that are shown to be essential to economic development and have substantial benefit to society should be preserved. The statement says too that increases in indirect taxes must be targeted on non-essential items, since such taxes take no account of income and therefore have greatest impact on those who are the least well-off.

The full version of ‘Justice in Recession?’ can be viewed on the website of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice.