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Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 856 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy] That finding has been supported by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation in recent times. The German study shows that, despite being one of the richest countries in the EU, Ireland's rating for distribution of wealth is 18th, in the bottom third of the 28 EU countries, along with Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia. As a result of the study, the foundation also cited Ireland as an example of how high GDP per capita did not translate automatically into social justice for the population. Ireland has a GDP around as high as Sweden's, but ranks considerably below average when it comes to social justice and is one of the biggest losers in country comparisons. This country is very wealthy, but the wealth is in the hands of a very small percentage of the population that is not being asked to pay its fair share. Less than 12 months ago, the Minister for Finance told me that the top 10,000 income earners in the country earn €595,000 each per year. From the rich list published in the Sunday Independent by Nick Webb, we know the 300 wealthiest people in the country have increased their assets and income from €50 billion in 2010 to €62 billion, an increase of €12 billion. We know the financial assets of the wealthy are now at the level of the Celtic tiger era, at €324 billion.

  It is time the Government made very wealthy people pay their fair share. I am talking about seriously wealthy people, not the ordinary individual with a redundancy payment or a retirement lump sum or who bought a house for retirement. I am talking about people with huge amounts of money, hundreds of millions or billions of euro each. They are not even asked to pay a wealth tax, which is one of the things the Government should do. It should introduce a wealth tax for very wealthy people, but I can see the Minister throwing his hands up in the air, as do the media and the establishment when people suggest it. We should remember there are six countries in the EU with a wealth tax. A wealth tax was introduced in this country by a former colleague of the Minister, Richie Ryan, but it was abolished by Fianna Fáil to suit its backers. A wealth tax is essential. Even a very small wealth tax would provide significant income, billions of euro, to address the issues of water, health and education services.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey Every week, approximately 1.5 million people receive social welfare payments. When we take into account qualifying adults and children, this adds up to almost 2.3 million people in the country who receive a benefit, including child benefit, which is paid to 610,000 families in respect of 1.2 million children per month. Assistance with key household bills is given to almost 410,000 households and pensions are paid to 560,000 people. Working-age income support is paid to 480,000 people, and income support for carers and people with an illness or disability is provided to 300,000 people. The idea that everyone is being left high and dry by the Government is rubbish. Half the population receives some form of social welfare support every month.

I listened to some of the comments made about this Bill, and it seems the average nurse or teacher is the enemy of some Opposition Members, based on their salaries. The Opposition resents the fact that these people are getting taxes back in the budget. When we were discussing the budget last year, there was an expectation that this year we would take more out of the economy. In fact, we are putting it back. Not for a minute do I think the average nurse or teacher or a person earning the average industrial wage is overpaid.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is not what we are talking about.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey Deputy Boyd Barrett should listen to his own commentary.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Can Deputy Twomey show me a nurse earning more than €100,000?

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Two people earning a salary of €50,000.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey I am sorry if Deputies do not like the sound of what I am saying, but I listened to the rubbish they spoke without interrupting them. Even if they feel my contribution is the same, the least they can do is give me the courtesy of actually listening.

The IDA supports companies that directly employ 166,000 people, and the same companies spend €7.8 billion annually on payroll and a further €12.5 billion on materials and services produced in Ireland. It seems the Members opposite want to get rid of that as well, because they have something against foreign direct investment. Do the Deputies opposite want to put another 166,000 people on the dole and get rid of the €7.8 billion payroll and the €12.5 billion that such companies invest in the country? Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, which are mainly Irish indigenous companies, employ 175,000 people and spend €6 billion on payroll and €13.5 billion in the economy. These are significant figures and should not be thrown around or played with in the way some Members talk about policy. The Minister for Finance once commented that people in this House use kindergarten economics, but some of what the Members opposite talk about goes beyond kindergarten economics.

One of the best things the Government has done concerns unemployment. Unemployment is dropping because there has been a sector-by-sector approach to getting people back working. It is not just the Minister for Finance but all Cabinet Ministers working with him. We have made changes in agriculture and drilled into sectors. Changes made to the 9% VAT rate for the tourism sector had a dramatic effect, as acknowledged by everyone. It is a textbook example of how the Government can change something in one sector of the economy in a dramatic way. By the end of 2016, 2 million people will be working in the country. That would be impressive. The outcome of joined-up thinking by the Government is that we will see steady growth of between 3% and 4% per year for the next three to four years. Looking at big-ticket macroeconomic measures, which do not interest most people but which remain important, we have exited the EU-IMF programme. Members who were present in November 2010 will remember Ajai Chopra crossing from the Merrion Hotel to the Department of Finance. They will remember that there was almost a sense of relief that the IMF was taking over the country. It was a low point. We made changes to the IMF loans and the promissory notes which free up billions of euro over the lifetime of the loans. The rating agencies are positive about Ireland's future, and ten-year sovereign bond yields are at record lows. Recently, a 15-year bond issued by the NTMA attracted one of the lowest interest rates for this type of sovereign bond. It is forecast that gross debt ratio will drop below 100% of GDP in 2018, ahead of the reduction required by the Stability and Growth Pact, which is nothing more than living within our means. We have managed to provide services to those who are the most vulnerable in our society and also in education, health and housing. There is an expected investment of €2.2 billion in housing, where a genuine need exists, over the coming years. It is a measure of good governance rather than the hocus-pocus ideas thrown out by the Opposition in these speeches. In October 2011, unemployment was out of control, and in the three years before it peaked in 2012, 300,000 people lost their jobs.


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