3 December 1997
A Budget for the Rich - Sinn Fein TD
Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described Budget `98 as a budget for the rich and a wasted opportunity to tackle inequality. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``When Sinn Fein launched our budget submission we said that in the Budget, the Government and the Minister for Finance had a choice - to make real progress towards the elimination of poverty and the building of true equality in Irish society or to make a fudge of a budget cooked up to please as many sectors of society as possible but once more benefiting the wealthy and leaving the disadvantaged behind.
``As it has turned out this budget is worse than a fudge. It is a budget for the rich. This government has clearly signalled that eliminating inequality forms no part of its agenda. The Minister for Finance could have made a huge leap forward in this budget. But he has failed to do so. Once more the wealthiest in our society have been rewarded and the disadvantaged have been robbed of the potential benefit to them of the Celtic Tiger.
``It was sad indeed to hear the muted plaudits from the government benches in response to the meagre increases in social welfare. The same benches were totally silent when the substantial measures to benefit the well-off in our society were announced, such as the reduction in capital gains tax from 40% to 20% or the 4% cut in Corporation Tax. And with the cuts in personal taxation, despite all the appeals to the contrary, the Minister has spurned the demand for fundamental tax reform and yet again introduced across-the-board cuts in rates which inevitably benefit the higher paid and leave the lower paid worker behind.
``An ESRI survey published this year showed that this state has the highest proportion of low-paid workers in the industrialised world. This budget will worsen that imbalance in our economy.
``There has never been a time when company profits and the personal profits of the wealthy were bigger yet they have been further boosted by this budget while those who really needed substantial relief have been given a pittance in relative terms.
``This budget fails in the three key measures identified by the Combat Poverty Agency, the trade union movement and many others, as being essential to tackle inequality and disadvantage. These are personal allowances, the basic rate of social welfare and child benefit.
``The increase of £250 in personal allowance for single people is at least four times too small to make a real impact; the social welfare rate still leaves those dependent on welfare below the level identified by the ESRI Poverty in Ireland Report of 1994 as being equivalent to the rate recommended by the landmark 1986 Commission on Social Welfare; and the miserly increase in child benefit is an insult to recipients, which again spurns the opportunity to use this payment as an effective measure to tackle child poverty.
``The cut in Capital Gains Tax will cost £25 million - the very figure that would be needed in 1998 to frontload new funds to provide residential and day care for the mentally handicapped and badly needed respite for their carers. That is just one example of what the government could have done if the political will was there. Instead they preferred to give more to the already overflowing coffers of the most prosperous sections of our society.
``In conclusion let me say to the Minister, the Government and the Deputies on the Government benches - never has so little been done with so much by so many. Your budget will maintain exclusion, inequality and unemployment. It will dash the hopes of those voters who supported you and you will inevitably pay the price in electoral terms. But the price of those who lost out in this budget will be much higher.''
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