[Sinn Fein]

14 November 2001


Share the Wealth in Budget 2002

Economic advantages ``scandalously squandered'' by Government

Launching his party's Pre-Budget 2002 Submission Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin urged Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy to ``share the wealth''. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

This is the fifth Pre-Budget Submission that Sinn Fein has published since 1997. These submissions reflect our ethos as a Republican Labour party and our sound policies based on practical experience representing people throughout Ireland.

This will be the last Budget before the current government ends its term. I firmly believe it will also be the last Sinn Fein Pre-Budget submission issued through the office of a single Sinn Fein TD. Next year I will be joined by several colleagues - Councillor Seán Crowe and Aengus Ó Snodaigh among them.

I could not be accused of exaggeration if I said that our previous Pre-Budget submissions have not received extensive media coverage. Given the growing support for Sinn Fein which will be strongly reflected at the ballot box next year it is very important that our policies are presented to the public. If we find ourselves in a situation where we are in talks with other parties about the formation of a government after the general election we will be guided by the proposals presented in this and previous Pre-Budget submissions and by our wider policies.

Budget 2002 is being framed in a dramatically changed economic climate. The unprecedented growth in the economy during the past five years has slowed to a standstill in the space of a few months. It remains to be seen if this slowdown can be halted and reversed. One thing is certain. It will have little adverse affect on the wealthy in our society who have been generously rewarded by the current government in every Budget since 1997. But for those on average or below average incomes the economic slowdown is already a reality they are ill-equipped to cope with thanks to the failure of the government to use economic growth to create equality.

The Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government has had two enormous advantages enjoyed by no previous government in the 26 Counties. Firstly, it has been in office at a time of exceptional prosperity resulting in budget surpluses in four successive years. Secondly, despite its slim Dáil majority, it has been able to plan for five budgets in a row.

Those advantages have been scandalously squandered by the FF/PD Coalition government. Not only has it failed to tackle the structural inequalities which warp our economy and damage our society, it has actually worsened those inequalities and widened the gap between rich and poor.

The October 2001 Central Statistics Office Family Household Budget Survey clearly shows the level of inequality where the bottom 10% of households have to get by on 15 a day, while the wealthiest 10% have over 150 a day to spend. The survey also found that the income of the wealthy had far outstripped the growth of the poorest in our society and that 38% of pensioners were now among the least well off in our society.

In Budget 2002 the FF/PD Coalition has its last opportunity to do what it has failed to do thus far - significantly redistribute wealth in our society. Such redistribution is even more necessary as we face an economic downturn.

Sinn Fein believes the priorities in Budget 2002 must be:

Pre-Budget 2002 Submission - Summary

Sinn Fein believes the priorities in Budget 2002 must be:

Health

The extension of medical card eligibility to all those on or below the minimum wage and to all persons under 18 years.

Increase in health spending in the Budget designed to eliminate waiting lists.

Housing

Major renewed State investment in a comprehensive Social Housing Programme, with front-loading of funding under the National Development Plan to allow the local authorities to house our citizens.

Social Welfare

Increase the personal rates of basic social welfare payments by 14 per week for a single person and 24 for a couple.

Children

The full amount of revenue accruing from payment of previously unpaid DIRT by financial institutions to be devoted to the provision of childcare.

Substantial increase in Child Benefit. In line with the Open Your Eyes to Child Poverty Initiative the government should frontload a substantial proportion of its commitment to invest 1 billion over three years (2001-2003) in Child Benefit to reach Child Benefit rates of 117.50 per month for first and second child and 146 per month for third and subsequent children.


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