The Central Review Committee, CRC, who are representative of Government, trade unions, employers, industrialists and farmers, meet, as a general rule, on a monthly basis and sometimes more frequently to review and monitor progress in implementing the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, PESP and the achievement of its targets and objectives. This process enables the social partners to have an ongoing input in the formulation of Government decision-making on all important economic and social policy issues.
The most recent meeting of the committee was held on Thursday last.
The programme itself, which covers the period 1991 to 1993, provides that there would be a review by October this year and a draft report for this purpose is at present being finalised by the committee.
Pending completion of this report, it would not be appropriate for me at this stage to anticipate or pre-empt the committee's discussions on it except to say that considerable achievements have been made under the various headings of the programme such as macro-economic policy, tax reform, social welfare, health and education. This indicates quite clearly the value and importance of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and our consensus approach with the social partners in solving our economic and social problems. This process with its emphasis on co-operation and partnership in the common support of agreed targets and policies has worked very well and has the full support and commitment of all the different interests involved.
The major black spot is that of unemployment. At my request, the CRC are now examining new strategies and measures within the framework of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to increase employment and I understand that they expect to be in a position to discuss its recommendations in the very near future.
The wideranging series of measures which the Government have introduced since the summer provide clear evidence of the Government's determination and commitment to tackling unemployment and, as the House will recall, I have given an undertaking to the CRC that their recommendations on new initiatives and strategies will be fully, carefully and quickly considered by the Government.
The core strategic macro-economic commitments of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress such as low inflation, a stable exchange rate policy within the EMS, a moderate approach to incomes and public spending, greater social equity and the debt/GNP and EBR targets remain essential to enable us consolidate the achievements we have made since 1987 and attain the highest possible employment and living standards for all our people in the years ahead. The continuing validity and importance of these policies and targets are all the more emphasised and are of even greater significance with the continuing turbulence on international exchange markets.
There is no question, therefore, of departing from these fundamentals which we have been pursuing so successfully with the agreement of the social partners and with such success in creating a low-cost competitive economy since 1987. This success is partly evident in the recent labour force survey figures for April, which showed that employment in our economy had been stable over the 12 months to April, in contrast with so many economies where employment declined.