Saturday, 18th November 2017
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group

Forget the first 100 days, Leo’s first 100 hours were mighty!

“We loves an auld report, we do!”

It has to be said, that we here in Waterford just love to get one “Auld report” after another, telling us just what we already know! The problem being, that those with parish pump vested interests in looking after their own constituents do not unfortunately, operate out of Waterford City and County. The power brokers, as we know, live somewhere else in this wee green island on the edge of Europe.

The Net result, is that Waterford has a veritable national library of reports, gathering dust in filing cabinets, desk drawers and being used as doorstops. I even saw one last week in a pub, stopping a table from wobbling (didn’t really, but you get my drift)!!!

The latest WIT South East Economic Monitor was published on 1st July. This is an excellent wee snapshot, of just where Waterford fares in relation to our nearest and dearest neighbouring counties. The report manages to dumb down the myriad of statistics out there, into something that we should all be reading. This simplified version of just how slowly our recovery is crawling along, makes good reading – provided of course that you are interested in this sort of thing!

Here’s the crux of such reports. We should ALL be interested in their content and their findings. It is after all not rocket science. Every man and his dog knows that regional diversity and investment has failed. There is NO regional strategy that has worked to the benefit of Waterford and the greater South East region. Yes, every single successive Government has talked about “A regional economic policy”, supported by a report that states “This will work!” But time and time again we have witnessed abject failure when it comes to Ireland’s South East and North West, for that matter.

Minister Coveney’s “Ireland 2040 – Our Plan” (I’ve lost count which number this report actually is) promises to double the size of Waterford City in the next number of years. Just how will this be done if you look at where we are starting from in 2017? The WIT report shows the huge enormity of the task in hand. “Fact”, our economic foundations are, at best, built on a very, very unstable model. To make Waterford great once again, we will have to do something very radical, to get away from the low cost, low wage model that we now seem to have accepted as the norm.

We have known for years that the proportionate spending in the City and County is way below national averages. You only have to ask an honest retailer “How is business?” and they will tell you that it is “VERY TOUGH trading in Waterford and has been for the last number of years!” Yes, there may be signs of economic recovery, but they are miniscule shoots and hard to spot for many a business.

Unfortunately, many, as always, will interpret the tough trading conditions in a completely different way. Come Waterford Council’s 2018 budget deliberations, just how many of our 32 Councillors will be advocating a Commercial Rates increase? I guarantee you that the CEO’s budget will be looking for a 2, 3, 4 or 5% increase on business rates. Just where will this additional money come from, when ALL the recent reports clearly show that it is just NOT there, to take out of our exceedingly fragile economy?

If you look hard enough there is good news tucked away in some recent reports though!

TravelMag.com has published a recent report on “The 20 most charming towns in Ireland”. Happily, I can report that Waterford gets a mention with both Dungarvan and Lismore making the grade and featuring in this top 20. “Dungarvan has managed to retain much of its traditional Irish charm” and “Writer Dervla Murphy, who was born in Lismore, continues the town’s literary tradition.”

So, we can find some good news stories, it is just that they are, by their nature, harder to find!

There is a plaque, in The Granville Hotel, commemorating the gift of a clock to Mayor Meagher. Upon receiving the present he reportedly stated “NOT another bloody clock!”

Lessons in history are never really learned, but often espoused.

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