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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] Significant investment is required to prevent a delay in the roll-out of high quality rural broadband, as well as additional investment in rural transport, rural enterprise, retrofitting houses and community supports. My business survey, which was carried out earlier this year, shows the complete lack of faith many have in the Government to drive local trade in rural towns and to reverse the trend of depopulation. Many small businesses are not even aware that supports are available. To add insult to injury, the lack of imagination in the increase in VAT for the hospitality industry makes rural Ireland pay again for the success of Dublin. Surely a way could have been found to make the increase fairer, taking into account the regional variations.

We need to start looking at budgets and governance through the lens of human rights. Housing, public services and adequate social welfare should be viewed as rights. My proposals for economic, social and cultural rights would represent a rights-based agenda if they were supported by the Government. Only then could we dismantle the toxic policies set out by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over the years, end homelessness and reinstate our high-quality public services once and for all without the threat of cyclical busts and booms so frequent in our globalised economy.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly There is something demoralising and abstract about this annual pantomime and the hype that belies the real lives of citizens. I am sure the Government thinks it is great, patting itself on the back that there are no obvious banana skins and that there are crumbs for everyone in the audience. However, not only will this budget fail to transform the lives of ordinary people, it will not make even a blind bit of difference to anybody. It critically fails to alter the strategic direction of the economy from a trajectory accelerated by the bailout. After all, why waste a good crisis? That strategy fast-tracked the redistribution of wealth upwards. Let us be clear: it was a political choice ten years ago to burden the public with private debt, impose austerity, reduce the tax base, and undermine public services, public jobs, wages and conditions through the Haddington Road agreement and FEMPI.

  It is also a political choice today to fail to address the structural underinvestment highlighted by organisations such as Social Justice Ireland, which points out that our social wage falls way below that of our EU counterparts, while spending per capita is 12.6% below the EU average. Nothing in this budget will alter that, but the Government does not care because that is not its agenda. It wants to continue the process of privatising public assets and outsourcing public functions such as community training and education centres, CTEC, administering unemployment benefit as if it had some sort of personal press. I listened to the Minister bragging about how he is putting more money into homelessness and HAP, but if his policies were working, he would put less into those areas, not more. He bragged about having the lowest unemployment rates but what does that mean? With more people at work, surely one would think that people could afford homes and childcare. Should that not mean less poverty or better health and education systems? It does not mean that, however. It means that we have a new phenomenon, the working poor, where the State steps in to make up for the failure of employers to offer a living wage.

  A permanent, pensionable job is as much a lie today as it was before the budget. According to the CSO, in the ten years since the bailout the numbers in part-time employment have increased by 33,700, while those in underemployment have increased by 29,300. A recent survey of 1,000 bar workers by Mandate highlighted that only 44% were in full-time work and 49% were in vulnerable work, while a clear majority felt their hours were used as a stick to beat them with. Similarly, some 76% of workers are on flexible contracts in Dunnes Stores, whereas 98% of them wanted more stable hours. What was the response to that survey? There was messing around in the House with Sinn Féin's Bill, which attempted to deal with it through banded hours. The Government came up with a watered-down version of that, but Fianna Fáil came in at the last minute, scuppered it and dragged it out, no doubt helped by lobbying from IBEC behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, is dealing with employers who blatantly ignore the organs of the State but it is completely toothless. Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy, Dunnes Stores and TK Maxx have 25,000 workers in total who are completely ignored. These companies do not engage with the WRC, yet Lloyds Pharmacy gets contracts from the State. There are uncertain working conditions in universities where casual employment contracts are the order of the day. We also see this in our airlines, where we have become a flag of social dumping and of convenience. There are pilots who are on contract labour but whose employers do not pay employer PRSI, which means they do not get the basic benefits of our employment protection.

  This is a wage-deflated economy which, when coupled with the rising cost of houses in the private rented sector and elsewhere, is not a stepping stone to a stronger economy. In fact, the elevated cost of living is compounded by a poor social wage and market-driven policies that do not provide solutions at all. The solution the Government offered today of subsidising landlords makes the problem worse.

  I know there will be more time to debate this further tomorrow but, in conclusion, I reiterate that we still have one of the lowest budgets per capita in the EU, which continues to put our public services under enormous strain, and we have one of the lowest effective rates of corporation tax in the world. The Government has set up a rainy day fund when people have pointed out that it is lashing outside for those who are experiencing the housing crisis, which the Government has done nothing to alleviate. While the giant elephant in the room is the catastrophic announcement yesterday of the impact of climate change and of how close we are to the brink, the Minister talks about "step change" and an incentive to put people in hybrid cars. If the implications were not so serious, we would split our sides laughing. People have spoken about loony economics but the Government has shown itself to be disconnected from reality when it brings in a budget that fails to deal with these issues.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Given the day that it is, I place on the record my sincerest sympathies at the passing of Ms Emma Mhic Mhathúna in her adopted home in west Kerry. It is a sad day for her family, relatives and friends, and it is only right and proper that it be acknowledged here this evening before I make a contribution. I regularly hold clinics where she lived, and she will be a big loss not only to her family but also to the community, which liked and admired her as an advocate against injustices that were done to people who were let down. She has sadly lost her life in a way that should not have happened. It is terribly sad and it is right and fitting to pay tribute to her, her bravery and how she gave up her own time, when it was so precious to her, to highlight the injustice that was done. She was an advocate not just for herself but also for other people who were misdiagnosed and who are sadly living with a death sentence following the misdiagnoses. It is a sad day for her family and I acknowledge that.

On the budget, it is only proper to acknowledge, since the Minister of State, Deputy Moran, is the man in the hot seat at present, that the day before he was made a Minister of State, I invited him to come to Kerry because there were serious problems there. Not only did he take up the invite as soon as he became a Minister of State, he looked first hand at the problems there and put his money where his mouth was. People can be critical of Governments, Ministers and so on, but I treat everyone as I meet them, and he has been nothing but straight and honest.

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