When I was in college, (waay back in the 20th Century) I remember very clearly visiting a friend one day in Blarney. Nice visit, but as I was going his dad gave me £20. A load of money to me at the time. I tried to refuse his generosity, but he said “take it, you can do a lot more with than than I can”.
The words have stayed with me a long time, because what he said is quite true. As a student £20 was a lot. It could keep me fed and on the bus for 2 days or so. For a businessman, £20 probably wouldn’t even have filled his car with petrol. So from his perspective, it was pocket money, yet I have never forgotten his generosity.
Fast forward to last week, and the revelation that Irish Water spent €50,000,000 on consultancy in one year. The amount as it stands is staggering. Then, we also hear that bonuses in the region of €7,000 are being handed out to the staff. In the middle of the financial crisis (my pay cheque doesn’t believe we’re out of it), it’s hard to believe that there’s this amount of spare cash available.
But don’t worry about the amount. Shur, didn’t the minister for the Environment declare that he wasn’t aware of the amounts involved because he doesn’t “micro-manage” his department. In what world is being aware of €50,000,000 micro-managing? In what world is the minister living? Does Mr. Hogan not realise the arrogance of that statement?
One morning this week Ray Darcy was discussing the whole thing on the radio and he began to defend the bonuses. His rationale is that the incentive drives the workers to achieve more. Well, that is what are they being paid for in the first place.
You see, the thing is, depending on how much you earn, certain values can seem like pocket money. If you are a top-level DJ or a government minister on over €100,000 then certain values can seem small. However, for most of the rest of us, we see money being spent and we don’t see the value of it.
The problem is that those with plenty of money are divorced from the rest of us. They live in a world apart. If they get sick they can pay for a doctor. If the car breaks down, they can pay to get it fixed, and not wonder what needs to be unpaid in order to cover the cost of that car. And, with time, no matter how good your intentions, you forget just what it’s like to struggle with money.
And that’s part of our problem. The people making the decisions are all on the €100,000 salary bracket. And they have expenses. Not the type of expenses you and I have, but the type of expenses that put money into your pocket.
So the people making the decisions have forgotten that some of us have to live on their pocket money. That, however, does not give them the right to treat us as children and ignore the concerns that we raise.