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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy] There is an alternative, and this alternative requires breaking out of those rules. It requires breaking the fiscal rules and breaking the rules of neoliberal capitalism. In our budget statement, we in Solidarity-People Before Profit outlined how the wealth and capacity exists in our economy to completely transform people's lives through investment in public services, precisely by breaking out of that straitjacket of capitalism. We outlined how the housing crisis could be solved and how 40,000 social and affordable homes could be provided in one year, paving the way to eliminate housing waiting lists and end the housing crisis within five years. We outlined how a national health service could be built and developed in three years and how in one year all GP charges and drug charges could be eliminated. This would mean free GP care for all. We also outlined a new focus on mental health provision which would involve the hiring of thousands of staff including doctors, nurses, psychotherapists and psychiatrists.

We outlined how education could be invested in and how all fees could be scrapped from pre-primary to third level education. The pupil-teacher ratio could be drastically reduced and education could be made fully free for everyone who wants to avail of it. As I outlined, we said that we could massively increase investment in public transport and halve fares to help us meet a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2035. We outlined how free public child care could be provided for all and how abolishing the USC for ordinary workers could be the basis for tax justice in our economy. It would be replaced with a high-income social charge which would apply only to those who earn incomes of more than €90,000 a year. We outlined a millionaire's tax, which would tax net assets in excess of €1 million and would raise €3.2 billion. We outlined how corporation tax could be doubled next year, which would raise €6.3 billion. A financial transactions tax could raise €610 million. Increasing employer's PRSI, which is the lowest in the EU, would raise €1.44 billion.

That is just a tiny glimpse of the resources which exist in our economy and how people's lives and their quality of life could be utterly transformed. It points to the need for a broader and more fundamental shift away from the notion that being a corporate tax haven is an industrial policy, which is of course complete nonsense. It points to the need to move away from the notion that we must engage in this race to the bottom in terms of tax, wages and data regulation in order to attract multinationals. There is a need, instead, to build a socialist green economy in which there is massive public investment in the things which we need and democratic public ownership of the key sectors of our economy including banking, construction, transport, communications and so on. There is also a need for a strategy to repudiate the odious debt which still hangs around us. One euro in every €10 which is raised by the Government in the taxation of ordinary people still goes to pay a debt which is simply not ours. In that way we could plan to have sustainable economic growth. It would be both sustainable economically, which would mean resilience in the context of Brexit and so on, and sustainable environmentally.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett This is a budget of miserable crumbs which will do nothing to solve the most urgent social crises we face in this country - the disaster of housing and homelessness and the chaos in our public health system. This budget will do absolutely nothing to deal with the gaping, growing, obscene inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income in our society. One of the favourite phrases of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in recent days has been "prudence". He regularly tells us that it is very important to be prudent. I feel like quoting the Beatles song of a similar title to him: "Dear Prudence open up your eyes." This budget has not opened up its eyes. It has not acknowledged or done anything to deal with the most serious issues facing the people who are suffering most and who most need the Government's help.

The most obvious example of this is the housing crisis. I do not know where to begin in expressing my anger and frustration at this budget when it comes to dealing with the housing and homelessness crisis. It simply beggars belief that in this budget there is only provision for 3,800 directly constructed council and approved housing body houses next year to deal with the scale of the crisis we now face. Some 3,800 houses are all that this Government can deliver next year for the 100,000 families on the housing list and the 8,000 people who are in emergency accommodation. It is just unbelievable. That announcement is nothing new. We heard that 3,800 figure after the so-called housing summit approximately a month ago. There was no additional funding beyond what was already announced. As was already pointed out by a number of speakers, the total amount of social and affordable housing, if refurbishments are included, is exactly the same as the figure in the Minister, Deputy Coveney's Rebuilding Ireland plan, which we all know has failed disastrously. There is no serious commitment to significantly increasing the amount of council housing directly provided to solve the crisis.

Instead an additional €150 million will go to housing assistance payments, HAPs. This is more money going into the pockets of private landlords. We also see a commitment to further expand this mad failed scheme to a further 80,000 to 90,000 households over the next three or four years so that, by 2021, we will be pouring €800 million to €1 billion into the pockets of private landlords. We will pay that money every year instead of putting it towards providing and building council houses for those who need them. Despite all the rhetoric about how the Minister wants to return to social housing, in actuality the central pillar of the plan to deal with this catastrophic housing crisis is to pour money into the pockets of private landlords. This is something which has failed and which has robbed the local authorities of the money they need, and should have, to build council houses.

There is also the matter of the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, which is another scandal in the making. An additional €75 million of a subsidy will go to private developers, purportedly with the aim of getting back affordable housing. This is incredible. It is bad enough that the Minister came up with this scheme last year and allocated tens of millions to give to private developers, but the fact that he has expanded it this year really beggars belief because in the interim the developers have made it clear that they will not give us affordable housing for the subsidies they are to be given. In my area, Hines, the private developer to which NAMA sold the Cherrywood site, has said that it wants €300,000 to €400,000 or more for affordable houses. How will people afford those? The proportion of the overall development which will be made up of these unaffordable affordable houses will be miserable in any event. It could be as low as 1%, yet the Minister is going to give more money to this scheme. Is the Minister stark raving mad or is he just addicted to subsidising his private developer friends?

As if LIHAF and the HAPs were not bad enough, the Minister has come up with a new scheme to subsidise the private developers, which will be called home building finance Ireland. This is another agency with a convenient acronym, HBFI, which the Minister announced so proudly earlier. It will co-operate with NAMA to give cheap money to private developers who cannot get it off the banks which we bailed out, because those banks are only worried about the bottom line. Now that the banks which we bailed out will not lend money to the private developers, we the people will give them cheap loans so that they can build housing on the 800 different sites of public land which local authorities will hand over to them.

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