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Budget Statement 2021

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Snippet Contents:

There is no argument that this is a big budget, with €86 billion in overall expenditure, an increase of €4 billion in health spending and €19 billion in borrowing next year. Some of the spending is unnecessary, particularly on corporate welfare. There is fair amount of necessary spending that is not included in the budget, and housing is a big part of this. Most of the spending is completely necessary and justifiable but many workers will worry who will pay for all this. Many will wonder if Mr. Keynes is being welcomed in the door next year, will Mr. Friedman be knocking on the door in 2022 or 2023.
The spending splurge must be paid for by those who profited most from the Covid-19 crisis and who also happened to be those in society who are best able to afford to pay for this. These are the super-rich. UBS bank estimates that billionaires increased their wealth 27.5% globally between April and July at precisely the time when tens of millions of working people lost their jobs and were pushed into poverty. A 10% levy on the profits of the big pharmaceutical companies and private hospitals in this State would raise an extra €2 billion. A 1.5% on the richest 5% in this State, leaving aside the first €1 million, would raise €3.8 billion. Collecting corporation tax at an actual rate of 12.5% would raise a multiple of that amount as 34% of corporations pay zero tax in this State, with 32% paying less than €20,000, which is less than the income tax paid by some workers in this country. Collecting corporation tax at an actual rate of 12.5% could raise up to an extra €20 billion. The corporation tax rate on profits should not be 12.5% but it should be 25%. There is a vast amount of wealth there and no need for the working people to pay for this in two years through austerity, tax increases or cutbacks.
I will make a couple of points about youth unemployment as this will be an increasing issue in our society. I want to raise some questions on the measures the Government has adopted in this regard. Taking the number of people under 25 who are officially unemployed and on the pandemic unemployment payment, we would come close to 100,000 people. The Government suggests tackling this through a programme of apprenticeships and training. I am all in favour of training but I am not in favour of so-called training that functions as a cover for exploitation and cheap labour. We need much more discussion on Skills Connect, which is something we will hear much more about in the next while.
There are 80,000 training places and internships in cybersecurity, software programming, medical technology, digital marketing and customers services etc. What will those young people be paid? An internship that provides 24 hours of work will see a young person paid €229. The jobseeker's allowance is €203, so is the Government saying that in return for 24 hours of work, a company must top up this pay by €26? This is €1.08 per hour, which is worse than the scandal we had in relatively recent years with JobBridge. We need decent training with decent pay and conditions and trade union rights. It looks with this proposal that the Government is aiming to go down a very different road.
Young people are a large cohort of the people in this State on minimum wage. The Government is proposing an increase of 10 cent per hour in the minimum wage, which amounts to less than 1%. Low-paid workers, many of them young, were among the heroes of the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown earlier this year. They did the retail and cleaning jobs, delivered pizzas and so on.
A group comes together to estimate what is known as the living wage every year. It is a decency threshold, a standard below which it is estimated it is not possible to have a decent life or standard of living in this country. The latest figure was €12.30. The Government is proposing that the lowest-paid workers in this country would live on more €2 per hour less than figure. It is a scandal. The minimum wage should be €15 per hour. I encourage low-paid and young workers to get organised and challenge the Government's low pay agenda.
I sat in court No. 3 of the High Court this morning and saw an injunction being granted to KPMG against ex-Debenhams workers. That injunction is a blow against the right to picket effectively. Those ex-Debenhams workers will not roll over but will carry on a campaign of effective picketing. As a result of this injunction, many of these people, who are overwhelmingly women, may find themselves in the days and weeks to come before the High Court and threatened with the prospect of the jailhouse.
These workers are very clear on the matter and lay the blame on this Government and at the door of the Fianna Fáil Party in particular and the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin.