Posted tagged ‘recession’

Recession photos

July 3, 2012

In the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, during a time of great economic hardship, the mood was captured for posterity by some hugely iconic photographs. It is of course true that, in the current decade, we do not have the same homeless migrant workers and farmers, or the abandoned towns covered in dust. But we do have some considerable hardship, particularly for those left on the margins of society.

This photo was taken last week in Aberdeen. I was struck by the complete lack of personal connection between the man sitting on the pavement and everyone else.


Recession photograph

October 24, 2011

The photo below was taken on a recent visit to America, but it probably could have been taken in a number of countries, in any city near you.


Recession stories – photos

January 16, 2011

As we go through the economic and political convulsions of this recession, those of us lucky enough to have an income and a home may forget that an economic downturn creates real personal tragedies. I have been walking the streets of Dublin with my camera looking for recession stories. Here’s one, below. The perspective is deliberate, intended to show that we pass by without connecting with people in this position.

Communicating in a time of crisis

November 16, 2010

Right now we do not know for sure whether Ireland will require EU or IMF support to secure financial stability. In fact, we don’t know whether there have, or have not, been discussions between the Irish government and EU officials or other member states about this. We don’t know what exactly the implications of a ‘bail-out’ would be were one to take place. We don’t know what impact any of this might have on the previously announced targets for cutting the public finance deficit. In short, we the people are pretty much in the dark about everything.

When there is a crisis, communication is almost as important as taking the right substantive steps. The key ingredient that will create confidence and a positive outlook, both at home and abroad, is a popular understanding of the position and of what must now be done. The Irish government may well be taking all the right steps, but it is not sharing its thinking with the people, and this is creating uncertainty and a loss of confidence. I confess that I cannot understand why the Taoiseach has not been on television explaining the position and the actions that will be taken to lift us out of financial crisis; indeed I don’t know why he has not been doing this on a regular basis. An ad hoc interview on a news programme, though probably better than nothing, is not a substitute.

An increasing number of commentators have been calling for a change of government. For myself, I doubt that would make much difference to our chances of recovery, and it would seem to me that political continuity right now has benefits. But there needs to be leadership, and this must include proper and visionary communication. This has been completely missing, and I suspect that our current difficulties have been aggravated by that. It is high time, perhaps beyond time, that this is corrected.

Greek tragedy? No, it’s not inevitable

September 26, 2010

This post is coming to you from a hotel lobby in Athens. I have spend the last two days in Greece to take part in a meeting on higher education reform hosted by the Greek Prime Minister, and this has also given me an opportunity to see how the country is coping with its particular crisis. And the answer is, really rather well. The phase of public anger and unrest appears to be over, and people are, at least as I found them, fairly determined to get on with it and find a way out of the recession.

As we all know, what the Greeks have had to deal with is much worse than what we have faced in Ireland, and yet they are far less focused on the blame game and far more single minded about how they can secure a recovery. In short, there is far less complaining and whining than there is in Ireland. To be honest, this has been something of a welcome relief from the ever-present negativity that is so dragging us down in Ireland right now. I am not saying we have nothing to complain about, but nursing all these grievances is doing absolutely nothing for us, apart perhaps from raising the cost of the national debt.

Every time I say something like this I get hostile emails and letters, but I genuinely think it is time to let go of all the anger and get on with working for something better. What Ireland needs more than anything else is confidence. Let’s go for that!

Universities in the recession

March 23, 2010

The always interesting website University World News has put together a series of reports on how different countries are treating their higher education sectors during the recession and the resulting scarcity of public money. Taking as their starting point the view expressed by a senior researcher in Berkeley – that in a recession governments should want to protect their university systems as these represent their best bet to achieve recovery – they look at a number of countries to see whether this is borne out in each case. There is no absolute pattern, but from the reports most developed western countries are cutting their higher education budgets, while emerging countries in the east are either protecting the sector or even allowing it to grow. In Europe, the exceptions appear to be Scandinavia and France.

What also emerges from the reports is that in a number of countries the current period is being used to introduce reforms to the system.

What should we conclude from this? One possible conclusion is that the approach by some governments to higher education may serve to exacerbate their economic problems as they will make economic recovery still more difficult. Another is that this is becoming an era of reform, but that the substance of reform is not the same across different countries. Many of those going for quick growth are liberalising their university systems and promoting greater autonomy, while others (perhaps including Ireland) are restricting and bureaucratising theirs.

It is not unlikely that as the dust settles from the recession that the pattern of performance in higher education across the globe will have changed, and will possibly reflect new economic realities. And unless there is a quick change of approach, this will almost certainly not have worked in Europe’s favour. Time will tell.

Stand down the mob

October 13, 2009

In a press release issued yesterday, the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) criticised what it described as the ‘Government policy of imposing the entire burden of fiscal adjustment on working people and the less well-off, while the wealthy are insulated from any requirement to contribute at all.’ All of this serves as a prelude to their campaign to bring about a change of government policy, to reverse public service cuts and to protect public sector pay.

But for the moment I am not concerned with the justifiability or otherwise of any SIPTU campaign. Indeed, I am not particularly meaning to have a go at SIPTU specifically, but I am wondering about the rhetoric which has become more and more common and of which the quote above is fairly typical. Alongside this are the increasingly wild campaigns of personal criticism directed against property developers, bankers, politicians and businesspeople. While I would certainly not wish to defend those who have abused their positions, wealth or power, we have reached the point at which lynch mobs are being sent out the moment a politician is seen in the vicinity of Dublin airport.

If we are to achieve a speedy recovery from our current problems, we need to stop this hysteria. The government may be good or bad (and I have’t been too impressed of late), but it certainly doesn’t have a policy of ‘imposing the entire burden’ on working people. NAMA may be right or wrong, but its purpose is not to protect miscreant bankers – it is to allow the financial system to provide the necessary service to those who need finance. Politicians may all too often have abused the system, but it is not a sign of national decay and corruption if a minister goes on a business trip to London and stays in a hotel rather than sleep in a doorway. PAYE taxpayers may well be destined to pay more tax to help restore public finances, but some of these are quite well off, and those who are well off are being asked to pay more. Not every senior public figure has behaved like Rody Molloy. And while John O’Donoghue did, in my opinion, need to step down because his expenses really were way out of line, even he should have been given an opportunity to state his case before somebody started fixing the rope to the tree.

We have got ourselves into a condition of frenzy, and this is doing us no good at all. Maybe the next campaign should be one to combat righteous indignation and to restore a sense of proportion to our state of mind. We need to think and act rationally at this point, and to stop baying for blood all the time. And we need to be careful that we do not create an atmosphere in which entrepreneurship and wealth creation are seen as wicked, because once we have got to that point we are throttling our best hopes of recovery.

Frankly, it’s time to calm down.