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Social Justice Ireland attend Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Ireland now has the resources to ensure that Budget 2019 addresses the key challenges and social injustices facing Irish people. Priority should be given to tackling the social housing crisis, reforming the healthcare system and addressing rural and regional challenges with a special focus on resourcing communities.

In our Budget Choices document, which outlines options for a fair and progressive Budget 2019, Social Justice Ireland points out that Budgets come and go, but the choices made by Government in its annual Budget can have dramatically different outcomes for different groups in society, especially in the long run.

The damage done through the economic and budgetary crises of the last decade is still being felt by Ireland’s most vulnerable. Despite the phoenix like recovery of the economy - now growing at least twice as fast as our European counterparts – we still have almost 800,000 people living poverty, the largest proportion of which are children; we still have a social housing crisis which has removed the most basic of social nets from those living on the edge; and we still haven’t found the political courage to say that Ireland is a low-tax economy that needs to raise new revenue to fund vital social infrastructure.

Most Irish people want to see an end to homelessness, social housing shortages, hospital waiting lists and child poverty. They want to see the lack of affordable childcare addressed, investment in rural broadband, and much more. These should be the priority targets of Budget 2019. Addressing the country’s current challenges effectively will take a decade or more. Decisions will have to be made regarding priorities and sequencing. All sectors of Irish society should be involved in shaping and delivering these decisions.

Social Justice Ireland’s budget choices for 2019 are based on the values that have delivered for the most progressive and equal societies around the world. We believes Ireland needs to raise its total tax-take to fund a fairer society. However, it is not necessary to become a high-tax economy, as we explain in the document. Budget 2019 has the potential to lift people out of poverty, to deliver a major breakthrough on the supply of social housing, to improve healthcare provision and to resource communities.

We are overrun with crises in this country: A crisis of healthcare provision, a social housing crisis, and a poverty crisis that sees children as the largest demographic living in poverty. We need to measure ourselves by how we treat the weakest in our society. By that measure we are failing. Budgets have the ability to change people’s lives, for better and for worse. Adopting the measures we are proposing would move Ireland in the direction of becoming a fairer, more equal society.

This publication was launched on Tuesday June 5th at Buswells Hotel.  

Main proposals:

INVESTMENT PACKAGES

  • Social Housing: €1,250m in addition to what’s already committed in Government plans towards increasing the resources needed to provide an additional 90,000 social housing units. (p. 8 of Budget Choices)
  • Healthcare and disability: €1,112m investment prioritising social and community care, disability, mental health and Slainte Care.  (p. 11 of Budget Choices)
  • Rural/Regional Development: €505m to help complete the rollout of high quality rural broadband, as well as additional investment in rural transport, a rural enterprise, retrofitting houses and community supports. (p. 10)
  • Education: €448m investment in areas such as adult literacy, DEIS, skills development and digital education (p. 12)
  • Pensions: A universal pension financed mostly by reducing tax-breaks that currently favour the better-off. (p. 13)
  • Social Welfare: €331m which includes an increase of €6.50 a week on social welfare payments and an increase in direct provision payments. (p. 9)
  • Children: €180m focused on Early Childhood Care and Education, paternity leave and affordable childcare. (p. 12)
  • ODA: An additional €136m as a contribution towards increasing the aid budget over the next seven years to the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNI*. (p. 13)

 TAX REFORM

  • Standard rate all discretionary tax expenditures: €480m
  • Standard rate tax break on all pension contributions: €483m
  • Remove tax refund element for R & D tax credits: €168m
  • Introduce a minimum effective corporate tax rate: €1,000m
  • Equalise Excise Duty on diesel and petrol: €68m
  • Increase accommodation sector VAT rate to 13.5%: €220m
  • Increase tax on in-shop and online betting by 3%: €150m

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