24th November 1999
Budget 2000 must be a Budget for Equality
Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD speaking at the launch of the party's pre-budget submission.
No government in this history of the 26 County State has had such a large budget surplus as that which the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition now possesses, the third such surplus since it took office. Once again it has a huge opportunity to create fundamental and lasting change, the change from inequality to equality in Irish society.
The ongoing economic upturn is happening in an economy which is warped by structural inequalities. The Celtic Tiger hype ignores these inequalities but they persist. The improved conditions for many sections of our society, and the conspicuous luxury enjoyed by a minority, contrasts sharply with the plight of those who have not been allowed to benefit.
To establish a secure future for the children of the nation structural inequalities must be removed. This means that government policy must shift from merely modifying the excesses of the market to becoming the main driving force leading to a new society on our island.
Sinn Fein believes that in Budget 2000 the government must use its unprecedented resources to:
- Eliminate poverty
- End the Housing Crisis
- Redress Regional Inequalities
Sinn Fein refuses to join the simplistic chorus which calls for giveaway tax cuts in this Budget and which thereby spurns the opportunity of the current economic climate to make real social progress. What we need is taxation justice.
This year the government should devote funds for income tax cuts to increasing the personal tax allowances of workers. All workers would benefit from this and low paid workers would finally begin to see the real benefit of tax reform.
On agriculture and rural development Sinn Fein proposes:
- Extension of the Rural Renewal Scheme to all disadvantaged rural areas
- Major investment in the Rural Development Fund as proposed in the White Paper on Rural Development. This would evaluate the extent of rural poverty and initiate action to tackle it.
- A scheme of low interest rate loans for farm improvement and investment to encourage young farmers to stay on the land.
- Special Financial Rescue Measure for pig farmers in the border counties.
We need to see:
- Substantial across-the-board increases in all social welfare payments to levels that allow individuals to live with dignity in conditions what will create the possibilities for greater economic participation in society.
- Financial support for the 50,000 full-time carers through the increase of Carer's Allowance to £110 per week.
- Two year initiative to provide the necessary places for over 3000 people with mental handicap/intellectual disability who require services.
- An Independent Living Fund for people with disabilities with a start up of £12.6 million in year 2000. Direct payments to people with disabilities and their Personal Assistants.
- Increased and secured financial support for those providing services, including day resource centres and personal assistance services to people with disabilities. End of dependence on CE schemes for such work.
- Increase Child Benefit by at least £20 per child per month as a vital measure to assist families with their childcare needs. This approach is preferable to childcare related tax breaks which will disproportionately benefit the higher earners.
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