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Budget

An open and transparent policy evaluation process, with meaningful engagement from all stakeholders, would ensure that we learn from our successes and from our mistakes. Such a process would ensure that we evaluate both and offer a framework to take our policy successes and replicate them across Government.  Social Justice Ireland believes strongly in the importance of developing a rights-based approach to social, economic, and cultural policy.  A key policy measure to deliver an open and transparent policy evaluation process is to measure the socio-economic impact of each budget.  This should be a statutory responsibility for Government.

COVID-19 will have many implications for Budget 2021.  Not least should be the recognition of the need for a functioning society for all underpinned and supported by a vibrant and sustainable economy.  Last year, New Zealand’s Government launched its first “wellbeing budget”, basing its allocations on wellbeing priorities for its citizens.  Speaking at the launch, the Finance Minister stated: “Success is making New Zealand a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life”.   Could such an approach work for Ireland?  We believe it could, and it seems that the parties discussing the formation of a new Government agree.  Here, we discuss some practical proposals that can be introduced in Budget 2021 that will deliver such a Wellbeing Budget. 

To unravel the two-tier welfare system that has been temporarily created as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and to truly deliver a fair and sustainable economy the new Government should develop a programme to index social welfare rates to the Minimum Essential Standard of Living over a five-year term. 

As a policy objective, Ireland can remain a low-tax economy, but not one incapable of adequately supporting necessary economic, social and infrastructural requirements. Our current low tax/low investment model is not sustainable and we regret that Budget 2020 did not take greater steps to address this.

We have been analysing and critiquing the Government’s annual budget since 1988, outlining proposals in advance and providing detailed analysis when the Budget is announced. Here, we draw attention to some of the policy areas where progress has been made.

Budget 2020 does not contain the ‘bold and new decisions’ required to meet the ‘defining challenge’ of climate change, and there was no progress on examining subsidies that the CSO has highlighted as potentially environmentally damaging.

Social Justice Ireland has repeatedly called for increased scrutiny of tax expenditures as part of the budgetary process. We regret that in Budget 2020, at a time when the Minister for Finance has made a point of repeatedly noting the scarcity of available resources, government has ignored a real opportunity to increase the total tax-take whilst making the tax system fairer.

In allocating just €2m of additional funding to the RTB for investigating and sanctioning non-compliance with the Rent Pressure Zone measures, and no additional funding for rent inspections and sanctions under other landlord and tenant legislation, the Government has shown that they are not serious about protecting tenants. 

Social Justice Ireland welcomes the Budget 2020 decision to increase the carbon tax from €20 per tonne to €26 per tonne. This is the first significant increase in the tax since it was introduced almost one decade ago, and we also welcome the commitment to ringfence the revenue to deal with the transition to a more carbon neutral economy.

Extending the Help to Buy Scheme for an additional two years subsidises the better off at the expense of providing sustainable and affordable homes for those in most need.

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