[Sinn Fein]

21st November 2002

Presentation of Sinn Fein Pre-Budget Submission 2003

A Budget for an Ireland of Equals

Sinn Fein Dáil Group leader Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin is today launching the party's most comprehensive pre-budget submission ever. Deputy Ó Caoláin said that this reflects the work of our elected representatives in the community, our all Ireland agenda and our determination to provide real and effective leadership in opposition to the Government. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

Sinn Fein is today presenting its most comprehensive Pre-Budget submission ever. Since 1997 we have been setting out our vision and our practical proposals on an annual basis in the run up to each Budget. This year s submission reflects our greater presence in the Dáil since the election of five TDs in the General Election last May. It also reflects the work of our elected representatives in the community, our all-Ireland agenda and our determination to provide real and effective leadership in opposition to the Government.

The publication of the Book of Estimates has caused widespread and justifiable anger throughout this State. Only six months after the General Election People feel genuinely betrayed by this Government. We have seen:

All this runs totally contrary to the Programme for Government, the National Development Plan and the National Health Strategy.

The forthcoming Budget needs to be seen in the context of those u-turns but it also needs to be seen in the context of the last five years of squandered opportunities. The Government failed to use unprecedented prosperity to create a better quality of life for all.

The difficulties we now face do not come about simply because of the shortfall in the public finances which have arisen in 2002 they result from mismanagement and the squandering of the unique opportunities of the past five years.

A society riven by inequality now faces an economic downturn. The wealthy have been well cushioned by this government. Those on lower incomes have seen neither a substantial direct gain in income nor, of equal importance, the improved services which they need and which they were promised.

Sinn Fein makes no apology for presenting again in our Pre-Budget submission many of the demands we raised in the years of record budget surpluses. These are issues of social justice. They cannot be set aside because we now face the results of government mismanagement. They must remain on the political and economic agenda.

On Taxation we propose a major review of the system and a number of immediate measures. These include:

A key aim of our proposals is the elimination of the many loopholes and inequitable tax breaks which allow the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. At the same time the tax system should have targeted incentives for research and development in Irish industry.

We believe that the Health services as currently constructed are both highly inequitable and inefficient. The public system is carrying the private system on its back. This is one of the main reasons why the large increases in funding for Health in recent years have not been as effective as they should have been. The end of the two-tier system and progress towards a truly equitable system will, we firmly believe, be cost-effective in the medium to long term. We call for:

Some may characterise our approach as simply OEtax and spend . Yes, we do seek new ways to ensure that the wealthiest individuals and companies pay their fair share. But we also call for fundamental structural reforms which would make for more efficient delivery of public services and thus be far more economic than the ill-planned and ramshackle structures we have at present.

Sinn Fein believes that priorities in Budget 2003 must be:

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