I never presumed to say I was qualified, but I am satisfied to take my guidance from the figures published by our Central Statistics Office. To become a statistician means undergoing a very severe and prolonged course in mathematics, and even then it is only the top flight of mathematicians who take up careers as statisticians, and until such time as better qualified men can be employed by the State I am prepared to accept the figures the director or whoever works under his control will supply to us. Accepting that, there can be no doubt, to my mind, that there has been a decline in agricultural output.
Deputy Dillon made an attempt to prove that the overall output from a particular acreage in 1951 increased as compared with the output in 1945 or 1947, but the important thing to remember is that there was a decline in the acreage of almost every cereal and almost every root crop we produce. Similarly, there was a decline in the number of milch cows, in-calf heifers, pigs and poultry. I do not wish to go through a long litany of them, but, even accepting Deputy Dillon's claim that the gross output of agriculture did increase, he cannot deny that, had the same acreage been kept up, that output would have increased considerably, and if our agricultural economy had been directed along proper lines, I believe that we would not be facing at present the very severe adverse balance of payments we are facing. So much for the figures published by our Statistics Office.
I read recently some figures published by the Statistics Office of O.E.E.C., comparing agricultural recovery amongst European nations between the years 1946-47 and 1949-50. In 1946-47, and comparing that period with the period 1934-38, this country was placed fourth highest among selected European nations in the matter of agricultural recovery. In the year 1949-50 the place we occupied in the same group of countries fell to 11th which, I think, should also indicate that whatever progress we have made could have been stepped up considerably with proper guidance and encouragement to the farmers.
With regard to the over-all picture of imports and exports it has been reliably estimated, again by our own statisticians, that by the end of 1951 imports amounted in all to £204,000,000 while our visible exports reached the figure of £81,000,000, a figure which Deputy Dillon claimed in the House yesterday was the highest export figure ever attained in this country. Again I would remind Deputy Dillon that, although statisticians' figures are generally speaking a good guide, when it comes to putting money value on exports surely he must realise that the value of the £ has so much decreased that £81,000,000 does not represent the value our exports should have had, even though, as he claimed, the figure was higher than in previous years. Taking the figure £204,000,000 for imports and £81,000,000 for visible exports we are left with a gross deficit of £123,000,000 and, allowing for our invisible exports, it has been reliably estimated that there is a net deficit between imports and exports of £66,000,000. That, I think, is something very salutary for even the average man to think about in getting the over-all picture of our national economy.
Taking a general look at Government expenditure, we find that the Supply Services in 1947-48 amounted to £58,000,000 while in 1951-52 it is estimated that they will have reached over £83,000,000. Our capital liabilities in 1947-48 were £100,000,000 and the same liabilities in 1951-52, after three and a half years of the inter-Party Government, amounted to £192,000,000, increasing the amount for the service of the debt from £3,250,000 to £7,000,000.
These are figures of a general nature and it was on discovering these figures for themselves that the Fianna Fáil Government, on assuming power, thought the time ripe to make the people of the country properly aware of the true position. Statements made by some Ministers, the Ministers for Finance and Industry and Commerce, have been dubbed forebodings of doom and statements of gloom. Nevertheless I think that it was their duty and the Government's duty to give an honest picture of the national household accounts as they found them and to call the people from the complacency in which they had been left to a full realisation not only of their position but of their obligations if they wished to maintain their standard of living and, if possible, to improve it.
One of the first acts of the Minister for Industry and Commerce on assuming office and realising that there was a danger of this country becoming a dumping ground for foreign goods, goods of a nature and description that we were able to make well for ourselves but at a price with which we could not hope to compete, was, as far as he was permitted by existing international trade regulations, to fix quotas as well as tariffs to the highest possible level. Many people do not agree with the imposition of quotas and tariffs but nevertheless, so long as we have reliable manufacturers able to produce goods of sufficient quality to compete with imported goods even if they cost our own people a little extra, I think that from the point of view of the national economy it is wise and good government. Without any dilly-dallying the Minister was very quick to realise the position. Knowing that there was a general recession not only in this country but in Europe and America and realising what the consequences would be he was quick to apply the only remedy at his disposal at the time. That itself helped to keep down the unemployment figures to which so much reference has been made in the course of this debate. I hope to return to that again later.
Realising also the necessity for industrial expansion in the country the Minister, under the aegis of his Department, caused the Undeveloped Areas Act to be passed. I am just referring to some of the remedial measures the present Government undertook in order to offset the existing trend of relying too much on imported goods and allowing the national accounts to drift. In order to bring about an industrial revival and to divert industry as far as he could to the West of Ireland the Minister had the Undeveloped Areas Bill passed which gave manufacturers, whether native western manufacturers or manufacturers from Dublin or Cork, the opportunity, if they desired to expand, to do so with the blessing and financial assistance of the Government in areas where industrial expansion and employment are most desirable, and where it is hoped the Act will be fully availed of in order to give that much needed employment.
Another undesirable trend quickly arrested was the dependence for our electrical expansion on imported fuel. When the Minister for Industry and Commerce assumed office he found plans well advanced for two new electricity generating stations powered on coal and oil. That was a trend which he felt should be quickly stopped. He felt that we should return to the trend which he had established: dependence for fuel on our own resources which were cheaper and which we could use certainly with more advantage to ourselves. The Electricity Supply Board were quickly communicated with and told to reorganise their development programme so as to include the generation of electricity from turf and water power which we have in abundance. An outstanding example of what that direction achieved was the initiation of the huge scheme in Bangor Erris which, it is hoped, will provide for our pool of electricity 80,000,000 units per year from 1956 onwards. As well as that, the Claddy River in Donegal, which has been a bone of contention in that district for a long time, was ordered to be put back on the Electricity Supply Board development programme.
The Tourist Traffic Bill is at present before the House. I think this Bill was in the course of preparation during the previous Government's term of office. Approaching these problems as a good Government should, without jettisoning any of the projects initiated by our predecessors, even though the initiation of the Tourist Traffic Bill was not to any great degree the work of the inter-Party Government, we, nevertheless, accepted the work on that Bill. We now have before the House at the present time a means of increasing our national income through tourism from the present estimated £26,000,000 to £30,000,000 per annum to at least 50 per cent., or possibly more, in excess of that figure.
On the agricultural side, the Government, almost immediately on assuming office, gave assistance to the dairy farmer who was in the habit of bringing his milk to the creamery. There was given to the dairy farmer bringing his milk to the creameries 1d. per gallon extra. It probably ill-becomes me, as a city Deputy, to laud that as an achievement but, for my part, I prefer to have some butter even at 2d. per lb. extra, which followed on the increase of 1d. per gallon for milk, than no butter at all, which is what would have happened eventually had the farmers been denied an increase of 1d. per gallon which they claim was their due and which, apparently, was accepted as such.
Increased credit facilities were made available for farmers and in that connection the Minister, only a fortnight ago, gave, in reply to a question, the particulars of what these were. One was the provision of credit by the Irish Flour Millers' Association for their agents to supply farmers with fertilisers and seed wheat. The second was a new scheme for loans for the purchase of agricultural implements costing from £40 to £750 each and the third was a new scheme of loans of from £25 to £300 for the purchase of sheep and cattle.
These, too, were designed to assist the farmers to increase agricultural production. It represented practical assistance from the Government. As well as that, they have been exhorted to greater production by the Taoiseach and other Ministers.
Reference was made, during the course of the debate, to the achievements of the inter-Party Government in the capital outlay field, particularly in regard to housing. I do not think it can be laid at the door of any Fianna Fáil Government that their approach to the housing problem was in any way weak-hearted. I think it has long been settled in the House that there is no real conflict with regard to the necessity of securing for our people adequate housing facilities. The inter-Party Government during their period of office frequently said—and to their credit carried out what they said—that the lack of money was no deterrent to the provision of houses for the people. The same applies at the present time even though, at first glance, the Estimates for the current year appear to show a reduction in the amount to be found for housing.
I think the Minister for Finance has already explained that that arises out of the ending up of the Transition Development Fund and out of the voting of moneys last year for the payment to local authorities of commitments which had been incurred as at November, 1950. A new method of financing local authority housing schemes has now been evolved and the net result will be that there will certainly be no easing in the provision of finances for housing to any degree.
There is at the present time some unemployment particularly in Dublin and possibly, to a lesser extent, in Cork City among housing operatives skilled and unskilled. That is largely due to the fact that the local authorities concerned have not their plans sufficiently well laid in advance. In Dublin, I gather the state of affairs is that a local authority has not got sanction from the Department in respect of the layout of the plans but I do not think that the fault should be laid at the door of the Minister or his Department. There are plenty of facilities, plenty of operatives and technical assistance available to all local authorities to have their plans well ordered in advance with the result that the lack of planning is no excuse for a local authority not to employ skilled and unskilled labour at the maximum rate on local authority houses.
I might refer to the social side because unless people are reasonably comfortable they will not be in a position to put into the effort to balance the national economy the work that is necessary. On the social side, apart from housing, we have now, after something like eight months, the Social Welfare Bill providing for a comprehensive scheme. I do not want to go into the merits or demerits of this scheme but at least within a much shorter period than the predecessor of the Minister for Social Welfare took to bring such a Bill before the House we now have it for discussion and, we hope, for implementation before another term of the Dáil will have passed.
As well as that, there is the enlightened approach to another contentious subject or rather a subject which had been contentious—that is the Legal Adoption Bill. A Legal Adoption Bill is promised and possibly will appear on the Order Paper of the Dáil in a matter of weeks. That Bill, too, will have its contribution to make in restoring the national, economic balance. Up to this, many of our young unwanted children have had to be exported because no facilities were given to Irish men and women to adopt children with any degree of certainty that they would be allowed to keep them up to the age of 21. Records have been produced to show that hundreds of our young people, who would have been adopted by our Irish people if there had been a Legal Adoption Bill on the Statute Book, have been sent to America and other places.
In time to come the Adoption Bill will have its effect in adding to our wealth of manpower. It will also make the people, who are aggrieved and affected by the lack of such legislation, feel happy that our Government is providing for a long-felt want.
I might, in passing, refer to the Vital Statistics Bill. Among its other provisions, that Bill provides for a short form of birth certificate. In a sense, that Bill is sub judice but, again, that Bill will help people who often—and I say this with a full sense of responsibility—rather than face the degradation of what their birth certificate might show, emigrate to find work abroad. If that Bill passes, and if it will have its desired effect, those people who now fear to produce their birth certificates will be in a position to use the short form of birth certificate and benefit by it. They will be able to present that short form of birth certificate for any purposes for which a birth certificate would normally be required.
It is true that at present there is a very high volume of unemployment. The weekly register shows a figure somewhere in the region of 70,000 unemployed.