[Sinn Fein]

6 December 2000

Budget failed to share the wealth - Ó Caoláin TD

In an initial response to the Budget speech of Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``In this Budget Charlie McCreevy has failed to share the wealth equitably. Having faced widespread and justified criticism because his previous three budgets gave disproportionate benefit to the wealthy he attempted in this Budget to use his huge surplus to deflect criticism. However his main achievement was to show that this government lacks a clear direction and clear vision.

``Many will give an initial welcome to a Budget which is intended to be populist. But when they draw breath and examine what more could have been done, they will realise how inadequate Minister McCreevy's budget really is. There are a number of positive elements in the Budget which I have no hesitation in welcoming but overall this has been yet another missed opportunity to redistribute wealth in our society.

``The reduction of 2% in the top rate of tax is indefensible and means yet again that those who need it least are to benefit most from tax cuts.

``In our pre-Budget submission we in Sinn Fein urged that ALL tax reform and reductions should be concentrated on removing the lower paid from the tax net. This has not been done. The single rate of tax free allowance has reached a figure of 7488 with the over 65s being allowed 8500. Both of these fall significantly short of our proposal that those under 11,400 should be exempted and that single earners should not be included in the higher rate band until they reach a threshold of 28,400.

``Increases for pensioners were welcome but should have been applied to all social welfare recipients. Other social welfare recipients should have received at least a 10 per week increase. Similarly the Budget extended medical card entitlement to all pensioners over 70 regardless of income. The principle of free medical care for all as advocated by Sinn Fein in our pre-Budget submission should have been accepted and applied across the board.

``The Minister had nothing to offer to those senior citizens, mainly women who are dependent on the pension of their spouse for their income. He failed to introduce as we sought, a non-contributory old-age pension that would be means assessed on an individual basis. These people, who are denied their independence and dignity, do not exist in Minister McCreevy's world despite his talk of appreciating the ``workers of yesteryear''.

``The extended period for fuel allowance is after all essential given Irish climate conditions. However, the Minister had no increase in this payment to offer.

``Farming was relegated to a minor section of this Budget which offered little to that sector.

``There was no mention of any improvement in the weekly allowable income limit for adult dependents of those in receipt of social welfare payments.

``In the vital area of housing the Budget offers no radical measures to increase local authority provision and gives instead a tax exemption for those renting spare rooms - an admission of failure if ever there was one.''

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