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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 Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan] Instead of that being an opportunity for really rethinking and restructuring where we are going as a society, not just an economy, I fear that what this budget signals is a capital review plan and a planning framework which is as conservative as this budget has been. That would be a real mistake. It does not say anything. I asked a colleague earlier this morning and he said it was "cromulent". I asked what that meant and he said it does not mean anything. That is the sense I get from this budget. There are lots of small measures, lots of different changes, but nothing that is really changing the direction of this State or this society.

Last but not least, I want to go back to values. I wish we were starting to experiment in budgets, not just to have a blanket one-size-fits-all. One of the ideas we had was to propose a basic income model of social welfare. We have €20 billion to spend and we saved €400 million this year by having a lower social welfare bill. Could we not have used even €10 million of that to ask towns to bid into a scheme where we would apply basic income in, say, six towns? This could be done in a radical way whereby we would give every person €200 a week and then measure and test what effect this would have on a town. Part of what we need in the national planning framework is a revitalisation of towns across the country. We need experimentation and a willingness to do things differently and to be flexible, innovative and dynamic, everything the Department says it wants to be but which is not in this budget.

To go back again to values, the Taoiseach says we have to centre Ireland in the world. I agree, and I think that is a very good approach in terms of how we think about ourselves. We have made the decision we are going to be global internationalists, co-operative and peace-keeping - that is what we do, that is what we are, and that is what raises our spirits. I was utterly depressed today when I saw what the Minister himself admitted was a modest increase of €13 million in overseas development aid. I am sorry, but it was not a modest increase; it was a disastrous decision. What it means is that we are ensuring a continuing decrease in the overall percentage we give in overseas aid. Instead of going towards the goal we should be going towards, which is 0.7% of GDP, we are going further away again in this budget.

That is not unimportant. Our success economically will not be by being seen as a tax haven for Apple. It will be by being seen as a responsible part of the global system and by playing our part on international justice, and in that way helping with migration and some of the other difficulties we have. To give so little an increase in overseas development aid was a signal which will perhaps not make the headlines and is not hurting anyone immediately, and no one will lose a vote for it, but in my mind it said everything that was wrong about this budget. It did not have big heart, big ambition or big ideas as to what we could be.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy Today's budget is shamefully inadequate, given the extreme crisis in housing and health and the need to restore cuts in welfare, disability provision, public service pay and pensions and many other areas. Some might say today's budget is a missed opportunity, but not so. It is, rather, a conscious decision, a conscious and deliberate policy, by Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil to protect the massive increase in wealth of the Irish super rich from fair taxation and to make further tax concessions to them. Prudent budgeting does not require limiting of spending to the shamefully low figures in today's budget. The European Union fiscal treaty does not require it either but it does not forbid extra revenue-raising, provided it is recurrent. Significant additional income could have been raised if the Government was prepared to make the super rich pay their fair share of taxation.

Here are the facts. On GDP per head, Ireland is wealthier than Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Italy. Overall, Ireland is ranked eighth in the world. The richest 12 in Ireland have €50 billion in total assets, having gained €6 billion in the last year alone. The top 300 have €100 billion, having gained €12 billion in the last year alone. The financial assets of the top 10% are €37 billion above the peak boom levels of 2006. The top 10,000 of personal income recipients have incomes totalling €6 billion per year, or average incomes of €600,000 per year each, and they have received the full benefit of income tax and USC reductions in the last two budgets and again today. The top 5% of all income recipients, on average incomes of €180,000, have received income tax and USC reductions in the last two budgets totalling €172 million. Today, they again benefit to the full from income tax and USC changes. Today, again, the fabulously wealthy will escape any additional imposition on their massive and growing wealth. In fact, they get €90 million out of today's budget.

This is a regressive budget. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in its pre-budget submission correctly stated that Government policy has created an unequal nation. The society stated that the top 1% increased its share of income by 20%, but the share of income of the bottom 50% has fallen by 15%, and one in four one-parent families live in consistent poverty. Government policy is shameful, cruel and anti-human. It makes the British landlords of old appear like charitable figures by comparison. There is one simple explanation. Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil are determined to protect the Irish super rich from fair taxation.

First, tax and USC relief on the top 10,000 income recipients should be withdrawn, giving a saving of some €10 million. Instead, a higher marginal tax rate should be imposed on all individual incomes over €150,000 per year. A wealth and assets tax must be imposed on the super rich while protecting small property owners. Skilled Department of Finance accountants will have no difficulty in sourcing three times the revenue the State is collecting solely by extra taxes on the super rich. For example, the wealthiest 12 would hardly miss €1 billion out of the €6 billion they have gained in the last year alone and the top 10% of financial asset holders would hardly miss €1 billion from the €35 billion above what they had at peak boom levels in 2006. These measures would transform the Government's ability to spend on housing and health, but the Government and Fianna Fáil are protecting the super-rich.

Today is world homelessness day. The proposals in this budget in respect of housing are scandalous. The Government's policy of relying on developers and the market to solve the housing emergency has been a disaster for families, yet this policy is continued in today's budget, again showing the support by Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil for the rich and powerful in our society. There is no change in housing policy in this budget. Not a single additional house will be built as a result of the budget proposals. The Government is persisting with its disastrous housing policy and, outrageously, it is continuing to evict families from their homes into a horrendous housing crisis through the banks it itself owns, Allied Irish Banks and Permanent TSB. The Government policy of reliance on the market has created a housing emergency, rising homelessness, rising non-affordability and rising rents. The conscious decisions by successive Governments to outsource house building to a profit-dominated, land-speculative, developer-led market has created homelessness and deaths on our streets. The market system has failed and is entirely dysfunctional. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are affected and large numbers of children are being damaged. Over 90,000 families languish on local authority housing waiting lists, a figure that has doubled since 2005.

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