Paschal Donohoe promised a “budget for everyone”. Leo Varadkar proclaimed a small but significant step forward “for our country”. The reality was yet another conservative budget that left the vulnerable with little and missed vital opportunities on housing, healthcare and Brexit proofing the economy.
Ireland currently has nearly 700,000 people on hospital waiting lists. We also have the worst housing crisis in the history of the state. These are major crises facing people in the here and now, but the government refused to do anything about them.
Instead of ramping up local authority house building, the government promised €750 million of public money to be given as loans to private developers. For those facing homelessness, the amount of extra cash was a miserly €18 million - or just 3.6% of the nearly €500 million gifted back to the tourism sector through a continuation of the 9% VAT rate. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the government announced an expansion of Housing Assistance Payments to private landlords and virtually no increase in public building.
Crises - What Crises?
As if to add insult to injury, they also stuck €1.5 billion into a so called Rainy Day Fund. The fact that Fine Gael could put money aside when so many people are struggling shows how out of touch they really are.
With much fanfare, Donohoe announced an extra €685 million for healthcare. He claims this is the highest ever spend on the sector, but it is nearly €300 million less than was agreed by an all-party Committee on Sláintecare earlier this year. Medical Professionals are not impressed.
The Irish Medical Organisation described yesterday’s budget as “deeply disappointing and regressive from a heath perspective”. Rejecting the minister's announcement as pure spin, they pointed out that the new package “won’t even keep pace with current demands or the increase in the overall age of the population”. This winter expect more deaths as Fine Gael sit on their hands.
On Brexit, the policy is to offer the private sector a loan scheme worth €300 million. This completely misses the scale of the challenges coming down the line. The Irish rich have bet our futures on a tax dodging model that is now coming under massive pressure. With Brexit comes the real possibility that Ireland will be forced to choose between EU membership and a common consolidated corporation tax base.
Real Investment Not Tax Dodging.
Without sweetheart deals for multinationals, the Irish economy would be much more vulnerable. Fine Gael’s solution is to deny we are a tax haven and tinker around the edges. People before Profit have a better idea. Our budget showed how it is possible today to take an extra €15.5 billion from the top 10% in Irish society. We would also take €5.5 billion from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and €2 billion from NAMA.
With these resources we could alleviate the worst social problems and put our public services on a firmer footing. On housing we would build 20,000 local authority houses and purchase 20,000 more. On healthcare we would hire 4,000 new nurses, end GP charges and scrap prescription charges immediately. We would also spend €800 million moving to a National Health Service.
To Brexit proof the economy, People Before Profit would start an €11 billion capital investment programme in housing building, childcare services and green energy. All of this is currently possible, but it will never happen without a people power movement on the streets and in communities.
Using official sources, our alternative budget shows people the options that they currently have. The real job is to build the kind of people power movements that won against water charges and the movement to Repeal 8.
Read our budget here: