We have a golden opportunity to reinvent economy – let’s not blow it

In Blog by Denis Naughten

The reports last week of the impact of Covid 19 on our economy and society in general does not make for easy reading. But I believe that it is more important to look at the glass half full rather than keep staring at an empty glass.


While I fully agree that the primary focus at present must be on the health emergency and saving lives, it is also important that we put a plan in place for the recovery of our economy and our society post Covid 19.


Hope has a powerful role during times of great uncertainty. We need to see a plan that gives hope to employers and workers, to the self-employed and to families and to older people.


And in that regard, there is some light.


At a briefing with party leaders last week An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, informed me that economic work has already begun within Government Departments on planning for the economic recovery. 


At that same meeting the Deputy Chief Medical Officer also pointed out that public health officials are now looking at an exit strategy on restrictions which may involve steps at national, regional or county level.


While these assurances are welcome, we are only at the beginning of the peak of this virus and the effects are already catastrophic and devastating on many levels.


But when it does come to the recovery, how all this happens must not just be left to our civil service. While they are excellent at what they do, innovative thinking is not their strong point and that I believe is now urgently needed to deliver a Covid Recovery Plan. A plan that will take people off the unemployment register into an economy that works for our people, not an economy that just works our people.


The Finnish Government have put it very well calling it an ‘Economy of Wellbeing’. In the economy of wellbeing, public resources are allocated for improving people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing means that people are healthier, more innovative and productive, and they work and pay taxes.


We have a golden opportunity to reinvent our economy, but we need a new decision-making process to make this happen.


I’m suggesting that we establish an independent Covid Recovery Squad – of say 4 people – made up of innovative and experienced Irish men and women. 


These would be people who have stepped back from their roles as businesspeople, entrepreneurs, financers and academics and who want to give something back to our Republic, something that will last for generations to come.


They would take a day or two a week to look at the merits of a proposal, that not just comes through the traditional policy avenues, but from businesspeople, innovators and our citizens. People who have a different perspective on providing solutions to age-old problems.


We as TDs are already receiving innovative suggestions like The Gathering in 2013, but we now need a new way of assessing these and a new way of looking at and tackling the problems.


This Covid Recovery Squad could look at a proposal or solution or put out a call for solutions to a particular problem and give their view directly to Government.


There is a long road ahead of us to recover from the effects of Covid-19. But this is something we can do together, as a nation. We have tackled many problems in the past and with the right approach, we can tackle this too.


We need to encourage innovative solutions and find new ways to incorporate them into Government policy development. If we do this right, it can have a practical and profound effect on the future of our nation; our economy and its people.


It’s about turning innovative ideas into determined action. The opportunities are endless, but we must encourage our people and our new Government to be creative and solution focussed. 


This all about finding new ways of problem-solving in urban and rural communities, and in business and enterprise, in homes and communities, in our post-Covid country.


This Covid Recovery Squad would help us undo the damage that has been done to our country and help Government and Civil Service along the way.


There is no doubt that the road to recovery will be a long one. It is critical that we start to plan now for an Ireland living with and living after Covid 19.