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Budget Statement 2018

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Snippet Contents:

How to describe this budget? "Band-Aid budget" most correctly sums it up. Ten years of crisis and Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour Party austerity created gaping wounds in our society. Between them, they removed more than €100 billion in terms of cuts to public services and extra, unjust taxes. Those measures created insecurity, homelessness and poverty. Now the Government comes along and tries to apply a tiny plaster that will not cover up the societal wounds or make a real difference to people's lives. At the same time, the budget continues moving the economy and society in the same direction that caused the crisis, namely, a shrinking State, a drive towards privatisation and a normalisation of precarious work and precarious existence, particularly for young people.
A figure hidden in the budget documents illustrates what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil before it have achieved with their right-wing ideology and the shrinking of the State. According to the most recent available figures, total expenditure is 28.7% of GDP, which is the lowest in the European Union. Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, supported by Fianna Fáil, continue that in this budget.
The Government likes to talk about a republic of opportunity, but what is the reality of the society that it has constructed, a reality that this budget will go further in constructing? It is a republic that can be summed up by "inequality". It is a society in which the richest 10% of the population controls 54% of the net wealth, leaving just 5% for the bottom 50%. It is a republic of inequality where the Government has driven a transfer of wealth and a shift from wages to profits and from labour to capital. Workers' wages are still lower than they were in 2008, not just in weekly and hourly terms but as a percentage of GDP, with a fall from 53% in 2008 to 40%. On the other hand, the personal wealth of the richest 300 people in our country has doubled from €50 billion in 2010 to €100 billion now. It is a republic of inequality where pre-tax corporate profits doubled from €75 billion in 2011 to €150 billion in 2015. It is a society in which a quarter of Ireland's population - 1.2 million people - are experiencing poverty or social exclusion. That figure increased from 15% in ten years. Some 308,000 of those people are children under the age of 16 years.
After budget day is over, after the debate has died down and a year has passed, what will the real impact of these Government policies have been? Will there be less social exclusion, poverty and homelessness? The Government and everyone else in the House know these policies will not make the situation any better. The crisis will worsen and the budget will deepen inequality. This is because it is yet another ideologically driven, right-wing, Thatcherite budget. It is almost dripping off every page of the speech, with private funding, tax cuts for developers and a hidden, massive giveaway for the vulture funds. In almost every sector, the Government's orientation is towards the private sector to deliver. This is particularly striking in housing, in education through the public private partnerships and the corporate influence on education courses, as well as in many other aspects. It will reinforce existing inequalities and worsen the cost-of-living crisis. At the same time, it will make some people - those best represented by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - much richer.
The right-wing approach that lies behind the budget was summed up by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, this morning when she defended the cuts made to the one-parent family payment under Fine Gael and, in particular, the Labour Party. She stated that those changes had resulted in fewer people being dependent on welfare. That is what happens if one cuts people off welfare, in that they are no longer dependent on it because they cannot access it. It is an Orwellian use of language. This pushes people into poverty. Due to our low-pay economy, almost 50% of the Irish population would have been living in poverty in 2015 had they not had access to some form of welfare payment but that is the direction in which the right-wing Government and Fianna Fáil would like us to go.
It is a budget of spin. We were told that the Taoiseach's strategic communications unit would not cost us anything but we see from these documents that it will cost us €5 million. This means that people - those on social welfare and low-paid workers - are paying for the Government's spin. They are paying for the Government to spin this budget in the next number of days, to pretend that everyone is getting something out of it while ignoring the reality that what most people will get by the time March comes around will be taken away before they have even received it. James Connolly used the phrase "ruling by fooling" to describe what he called a "British art", but it is an art the Government is trying to take up with a view to spinning anything that happens, particularly budgets.