9 April 2009 Edition
Coalition 'nationalises debt privatises profit' - Morgan
No justice in emergency budget as low paid carry the can
BY ROBBIE SMYTH
“NOBODY earning €204 a week can be asked to carry the can for the mess that this government and the banking and business elite have conspired to create”. This was the first response from Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Arthur Morgan to this week’s emergency budget. Morgan told the Dáil that, “There is no justice in this budget”.
Brian Lenihan unwrapped a budget savage in its attacks on the most vulnerable in society and blinkered in its absence of an enterprise strategy or stimulus package for the Irish business sector who are the crucial cog in enabling the economy to climb out of recession.
The income levy introduced last December is to be doubled to 2% with the wage threshold as to who the levy affects cut to just €15,028 annually pulling thousands of minimum wage workers into the tax net.
A 4% levy will now apply to incomes over €75,036, and 6% rate on annual incomes over €174,000. Sinn Féin had proposed a 48% tax on those earning more than €100,000 annually.
The income levy was just the start. The health levy will also double from 2% to 4% on incomes below €75,036 annually, and 5% on higher incomes. Sinn Féin had proposed a 3% levy on annual incomes of €100,000 or over.
Morgan accused the minister of cynically targeting workers “surviving on a little over €41 a day”, as he listed out the stealth taxes and levies picking away at the living standards of the most vulnerable in society.
“They have targeted young families struggling to pay for childcare”, said Morgan who also highlighted the halving of payments to teenagers on the job seekers allowance, or the cutting of the December bonus for those in long term receipt of social welfare.
Such measures would he said “force vulnerable families into the hands of money lenders”.
These families Morgan said, “did not cause this economic crisis but are now being asked by this government to carry the can for their failure”.
There were, according to Morgan, more just options to the coalition including the complete removal of the PRSI ceiling which would have “absolved the need to bring those on the minimum wage into the tax net”.
Other Sinn Féin proposals such as lowering all discretionary tax reliefs to the standard rate of tax, increasing Capital Gains Tax were all measures which according to Morgan “would have ensured fairness and helped address the crisis in public finances”.
Turning to the issue of worker training and what Brian Lenihan called “activation measures” Morgan responded saying that 372,800 people are unemployed in this state. The retraining measures announced today wouldn’t even help all those who lost their jobs in January or February never mind the hundreds of thousands who are unemployed. Lenihan had announced “activation opportunities” for almost 25,000 people, which is less than the total amount of people who lost their jobs in January.
Dealing with the proposal for a new toxic debt agency, Morgan said, “The get out of jail clause given to the banks after years of reckless property lending leaves the tax payer saddled with a €90 billion debt. They are nationalising debt and privatising profit. But the government ignore those struggling to survive. They have no proposals to deal with the fact that there is a six week waiting lists for Money Advice and Budgeting Services MABs to even answer a query.
‘Commercial death for business’ – Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin’s Leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin highlighted the Coalition’s short term thinking and absence of innovation in the emergency budget.
Ó Caoláin described the Budget as “a recipe for worsening recession”. He said that it contained no jobs strategy and would lead to more small businesses going to the wall. Ó Caoláin said, “This Budget should have been about job retention and job creation. Instead we have no jobs strategy and an assault on young unemployed people”.
Tackling the issue of an economic stimulus package Ó Caoláin said “The Budget does nothing to stimulate the economy. There is no support for the small and medium size enterprises that are going to the wall every day. Instead it takes the last Euros from the pockets of their customers and condemns them to commercial death.
The funding public health services was also raised by Ó Caoláin which were he said “already badly affected by cuts since autumn 2007, are facing nothing short of disaster”.
Ó Caoláin said, “The Government has placed an embargo on the filling of almost all posts in the public health service. In addition it is expected that contracts for up to 1400 workers in the health services will not be renewed.”
Highlighting the Sinn Féin alternative Ó Caoláin said there were “fairer ways, to create wealth and to share wealth. That must still be done but, because of the disastrous governance of Fianna Fáil-led administrations, it will be much, much more difficult”.
“But however difficult, the longest journey must begin with a first step and the first step will have to be the removal of this rotten Government.”
Budget Massive Blow to Rural Ireland – Ferris
Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris described the budget as “a massive blow to rural Ireland”.
Responding to the cuts in REPS payments and to Sustainable Energy research, Ferris said: “the reduction in REPS payments, will add further to the downward pressure on incomes, particularly of smaller farms which rely greatly on REPS.
The cut to sustainable energy research will also mean the ending of renewable energy projects that promised to create jobs. Above all perhaps it underlines the absolute hypocrisy and bankruptcy of the Greens.
“The diesel increases and the cuts in the subvention to CIE will affect peoples’ mobility and increase isolation, and in combination with all the other cuts we have had to date, to schools, the Sports Capital grant and so on will have a devastating impact on rural communities”.