Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Gini mac

How I imagined it would be: Enda Kenny, as leader of the new government, would stand up in the Dáil on his first day and announce: "We're all in this together. We have to solve it together. For the duration of the crisis, all government and public service and semi-state salaries are being cut to €50,000. No expenses, no increments, no massive pensions, no double pensions, no free bars or canteens."
He would say: "We were a poor country until the 1970s, then we began to climb out of it. The reasons were education - we opened free, State-supported education for all to the Leaving Cert, and then university - and a new egalitarianism that allowed talented people to follow their gift, and brought investment flying into the country.
"So now we're going to follow the same plan. We will keep and use our assets, foster our talent, grow our industries. Like Japan, we will become a country of SMEs, exporting to our neighbours; like Iceland, we will send the gambling banks off with a flea in their ear."
I expected him to fight to take back the fishing grounds that horrifyingly stupid EU policies have ruined - we have some of the best marine expertise in the world in Ireland, who could save the species now threatened with extinction. I expected Enda to keep our forests as a national heritage, to foster our arts, to put the best brains in the country to work in our enterprise management.
Ireland's Gini Coefficient, Corrado Gini's measure of statistical dispersion, which measures equality of income, and which is a reliable indicator of the future success of a society, has been getting worse. A low Gini figure means an equal society, and also indicates a society where people have equal chances, resulting in better healthcare, lower prison numbers, higher educational attainment, more overall wealth.
Here's a graph of how countries have been doing since World War II (being at the bottom of the chart means you're more equal, being at the top of the chart means you're less equal; if the Gini ratio is 100, one person has all the wealth, if it's 1, everyone has the same amount):

In Europe-wide figures Ireland in 2009 had achieved a Gini Coefficient of 28.8, creditably below the EU average of 30.4. Just a year later it had soared to 33.2. Figures are not yet available for 2011 and 2012, but there is no doubt that inequality is getting worse. http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=ilc_di12&lang=en
Our unemployment figures are rising, poverty is increasing - even though the real effect of this is concealed by the haemorrhaging emigration that removes huge numbers from the register of unemployment and the need for state support. 
I voted the straight left ticket in the general election, or so I thought. I was ecstatic that Labour would be in government - they would stand up for the poor, I thought, they would foster equality. I was happy that Fine Gael would lead the government; I thought they were straight and decent, and would understand that an equal society, a just society, is best for all. 
Better get back to writing fiction now.

  Lucille Redmond's ebook of short stories, Love, is available on Amazon and iTunes

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