The DE-ENERGIZER – the truth behind policy or who is REALLY Paying for this Crisis

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The news has emerged over the weekend that 900 homes a month are being disconnected from the electricity grid because they were not able to pay their bills. (1) A further 11,000 bill payers a month are entering into  special re-payment options  because they’ve already contacted the Electricity Supply Board to say that they are having difficulty making the payment.

The newspeak word that was used in the press release by the ESB was ‘de-energizing’ customers. 

 

The news should be coupled with the fact that this Government has decided to allow an increase in the cost of this utility by 5% in October.   People will head into another winter with the assurance of yet another rise in the cost of living.

This is just the latest indication that the cost of living increases are being placed on the shoulders of individuals and families.   The same logic is being applied to mortgage debts with over 1000 cases in the courts last year for repossession.  The Mortgage Income Supplement is a short term measure which is unsustainable in the medium term (with over 450,000 on the Live Register and no sign of a visible job recovery on the horizon) and the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) only gives the defaulting holder six months, or twleve months (BOI, AIB) prior to the lender proceeding down the repossession route.  The code is written in a language which does not reassure borrowers, no repossession proceedings commenced until ‘every reasonable effort has been made to agree an alternative repayment schedule with the borrower’.

In a time of a desperate property market, we still had a thousand repossession cases in the Court.  The CCMA is not legally admissible.  On one day alone in November last year 18 repossession orders were granted in the high court.(2)

The lenders have no shortage of candidates for repossession but this will rise further when one considers that we are living in a time of a very depressed property market.  Think of the stampede down this route if property manages to stabilize or even marginally go back up.  

In July 2010 it was reported that 600 new cases for repossession came into the High Court master’s list since June and ‘most of those involve outright default of loans over a year or more.’ (3) It would appear that the lenders are deciding to push through the more obviously unsustainable mortgages, for now.

Underpinning all of this is the reckless lending that meant people borrowed and bought houses which were always going to be totally unsustainable.  Banks moved from being services, to being sellers of credit and closers of loan deals, no-one looking at the long term prospects or even considering that there might be a change in circumstances of any of the individuals concerned.

"In 1995, Ireland had a household Debt (including mortgages) to disposable income ratio of 48. By 2008, this had risen to a ratio of 176, an increase of almost 270%. The rise is much higher than four other countries (Spain, UK, Canada and France) where similar comparative data sets exist."(4)  Put in simple terms for every €10,000 earned in that household, it has debts equating to €17,600.  There is little sign of any correction or policy which is aimed at dealing with this.   Private indebtedness is an elephant in the room when it comes to public policy – and effectively with the nationalisation of the debts associated with the property speculators (NAMA) there is nothing left to address this issue.

Of course this is not news – Ireland appears to be a laboratory where the ordinary people are experimented upon to see how much they can load onto their shoulders.  Back in 2007, the average % of GDP spent on social protection in the EU-15 was 27.5%.(5) In Ireland it was 18.2% and that was in the good times.  Since then 6 billion euro has left the economy – and no options are being explored which don’t come back to looking for the people to shoulder all these debts, both personal and public. Everything is being shovelled down the line and in through the door in the form of the dreaded window enveloped bills.

Ireland borrowed to save the banks who gave the money to the developers.  The Irish state is not going to be able to borrow again when the banks come back and tell us they can’t get people to pay their mortgages – so they are free to pursue people through the courts, get the deeds for the house, and leave them saddled with the debt for life.

The fact that 900 homes a month are losing their electricity is just a stark fact which jumps out and reminds you that ordinary people are being made to pay for this crisis.  People don’t sit around in the dark out of choice.  This is a postcard of where the policies of Governments lead – to people paying for the sins of the casino capitalists and their backers at the banks.

WORDS: D.Freeman

(1) Story from www.Rte.ie  Monday 16th August – here

(2) Court grants a record 18 repossession orders – Fiona Gartland Irish Times Nov. 3rd 2009

(3) Court gets 600 cases to repossess homes – Mary Carolan – Irish Times July 21st 2010

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