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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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  6 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] The dirty great secret of the Irish economic story is that over the past ten years, the profits and wealth of the rich in this country have gone through the stratosphere. I do not see this as an exaggeration. Corporate profits in 2012 were €74 billion, while corporate profits today are €158 billion, which is more than double the 2012 figure. Meanwhile, the effective corporate tax rate is less now than it was in 2008 because of a myriad of tax loopholes, deductions and allowances that the Government has facilitated for property speculators and the corporate sector. In the latest available figure, this amounts to €87 billion of loopholes in a single year. Pre-tax profits are €158 billion but there are €87 billion of loopholes bringing the taxable profits to €71 billion. This is letting those people away with murder.

We have been saying this for ten years but it is not just us saying it any more. The Comptroller and Auditor General confirmed this in his report in the past couple of weeks. He identified €216 billion of allowances, deductions and losses forward that are being utilised by the corporate sector to avoid paying taxes. He also pointed out that some of the richest people in Irish society - specifically 90 high net worth individuals - pay less tax per year than a worker on the average industrial wage. It is absolutely shameful, and the process is facilitated by the myriad of deductions and loopholes that benefit the rich.

Although the vast majority of people would not know it, household wealth in Ireland has reached staggering and unprecedented levels. There is a total of €727 billion in national household wealth in the country, which would amount to over €600,000 per household; however, most households do not have anything even close to that. Even the figures from the Department of Finance indicate that 53% of all the wealth I described is owned by less than 10% of the population, which is the problem. The Government's refusal to tax these people and make them pay a fair share - even the 12.5% corporation tax rate - means it is missing out on an extra €7 billion.

The Government cannot even give us a costing for the financial transaction tax, which I have also asked about for the past three years. The Department of Finance will not tell us what the European Union's proposal for a financial transaction tax would generate in Ireland. We know that exchanges worth approximately €2 trillion are going through the International Financial Services Centre but we cannot get a figure on what a financial transaction tax would generate. This is the dirty secret. While the Government fails to address the dire and shameful housing emergency, a crumbling health service, a crisis in education, runaway climate change and deep inequality in Irish society, it has thrown a few crumbs at us. The rich, including property speculators, real estate investment trusts and asset management companies run away with the cake because the Government handed them the entire bakery. It is really shameful and our society will pay a deep price.

The only answer is the kind we saw on the streets last week. On an optimistic note, it seems that movement, which we saw born on the streets last week, is gearing up for the next phase of resistance against the shameful failure of the Government to deal with the real problems faced by Irish society.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy We are in the middle of the greatest housing crisis in generations. Ten thousand people are officially homeless, despite all the efforts of the Government to keep the figures artificially low. More than 100,000 people are on housing waiting lists, with 500,000 young people stuck in their parents' houses because they are unable to afford rent. Hundreds of thousands of other people are faced with paying rent that is completely out of control and hundreds of thousands of others are unable to buy their first home. One would not know any of that in listening to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe.

The Minister told us with pride at 1 p.m. today that "In the past 12 months, 5,000 households have exited homelessness." What he neglected to tell us is that more than 5,000 households in the same period entered homelessness, with the result that the number of households that are homeless rose rather than declined. In the midst of this greatest housing crisis, what is proposed by Fine Gael and agreed by Fianna Fáil, despite all its empty calls for this to be a housing budget, is a landlords' budget. It is a landlords' budget presented by a landlords' Minister on behalf of a landlords' Government. It has more tax reliefs for landlords making unprecedented profits; they are the highest in the European Union. More housing assistance payment money is being shovelled in the direction of landlords. The Government is simply repackaging the same old Rebuilding Ireland promises and figures one more time.

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, in last week's debate reassured us that he had no ideological position on housing but a week later we have a budget that absolutely confirms that the ideological position of the Government, of which the Minister of State present, Deputy Halligan, is a part. That Government of Fine Gael, Independents and so on has a right-wing ideological position. It is a neoliberal ideological position that chimes with the material interests of those who support Fine Gael. They are the landlords and the developers. We know from the budget that this ideological position does not exist in a vacuum just on the matter of housing but relates to the Government's entire view of how the economy should be run. Those neoliberal policies carried out in the years of crisis and supposed recovery have resulted in a society with entrenched and deep inequality.

There has been a very substantial recovery for those at the top, including the top 300 people who have doubled their personal wealth over the past number of years. Corporations have doubled their profits over the past number of years. However, there is a consequence, as workers' wages are now barely at the point they were before the crisis with the wealth funnelling upwards at an unprecedented rate and with 10% of the population controlling 54% of the net wealth, leaving just 5% for the bottom 50%. There has been a shift in society from wages to profits, with workers' wages falling as a percentage of gross domestic product from 53% in 2008 to 40% now. This is a budget to entrench that neoliberal model and the inequality flowing from it.

This is a budget for fiddling while the whole world burns. It has effectively nothing to say on the key matter of climate change. Yesterday's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report has the entire world talking about the fact we have 12 years to turn the problem around to avoid hitting a global average increase of 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That does not seem to have performed any kind of wake-up service for the Government whatever.

This is a budget for the continuation of discrimination and mistreatment of young people, including students, young workers and the young unemployed. It is a budget where taxation measures give less than a fiver to an average worker but turns a very encouraging blind eye to the multinationals to enable them to continue their tax avoidance on a massive scale while the Government pretends to be doing something about it. The figures demonstrate that this is not the case. There is an alternative but it is based on the implementation of radically different policies from those of the Government. It is based on the implementation of socialist policies and using the resources that exist in society to tackle the housing emergency now, invest in public services and use public investment and democratic public ownership to develop sustainably, in an economic and environmental sense, our economy.

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