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Government's approach to Budget will damage the sick, the poor and the vulnerable- Budget 2011

Social Justice Ireland has issued the following statement on the Government’s approach to the forthcoming Budget and the period to 2014.

  1. The Government’s current approach to Budget 2011 will seriously damage sick, poor and vulnerable people. While Government has stated it will support these groups, its refusal to ‘put everything up on the table’ for consideration means that Ireland’s weakest groups will take the major part of the ‘hit’ for the reckless actions of greedy bankers, incompetent regulators and an inept government.

  1. While Government has said that everything must be on the table when it considers how to reduce its borrowing to 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2014 it immediately goes on to insist that: 
·         Senior bond-holders cannot be asked to bear any part of the adjustment;
·         The corporation tax rate cannot be increased;
·         The Croke Park agreement must be honoured in full.
·         A greater part of the adjustments will come through expenditure cuts rather than through tax increases.
  1. This approach is hypocritical and deeply unjust. Either everything is on the table or it is not.
  1. By taking so many things off the table Government has created a situation where most of the adjustments will be made at the expense of the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. We have seen this articulated clearly recently when Minister for Health, Mary Harney TD, stated that up to €1bn in cuts would have to come from 30% of the health budget (the remaining 70% is pay which is protected by the Croke Park agreement). In practice this means that programmes focused on helping those who are sick, poor or vulnerable will take all the ‘hit’. This is patently unjust.
  1. It is clear that Government has decided that those who are rich and/or strong will not be asked to make sacrifices while those who are weak and poor will bear the brunt of the Government’s budget adjustments. This can be seen clearly when Government ministers continue to insist that they must:
·         Reduce welfare rates (which will hit the weakest and poorest as well as increasing poverty);
·         Bring the working poor into the tax net which will deepen their poverty (more than a third of all households at risk of poverty are headed by a person WITH a job);
·         Reducing the funding for programmes providing services to people who are ill, old or have a disability (i.e. Ireland’s most vulnerable people).
  1. Social Justice Ireland fully acknowledges the gravity of the present situation which has been caused by a variety of groups including bankers, regulators and government itself. Very difficult decisions must be made and made quickly if the present decline is to be reversed. It is in the interest of all Irish people that the correct decisions be made now.  
  1. However, those decisions must be fair and just. They must also be seen to be fair and just. What Government is proposing to do is deeply unfair and unjust. It is totally unacceptable that Government targets the sick, the poor and the vulnerable to rescue Ireland while some of those who are among Ireland’s richest and/or most powerful groups and who contributed in a major way to the current crisis are dispensed from making any contribution to rectifying the situation.
  1. Social Justice Ireland believes a fairer future is possible. We urge Government to act fairly and justly in the coming weeks and months as it designs a pathway out of the present difficult situation. Such a pathway must not target the sick, the poor and the vulnerable. A fairer future can be shaped and reached without asking the weakest and poorest in society to bear the brunt of the adjustments required

Budget Choices document can be downloaded here