The €3.8 billion taken out of the economy in this budget will come in bulk from those least able to afford it and will further deflate the economy. Sinn Féin is setting out a household stimulus package with the aim of helping those struggling in the current economic climate. It is not as large or wide-ranging as we would like, as the bulk of our stimulus measures apply to direct job creation. But throughout we hold the following principles:
- No child will be left behind –recession is tough, but in a first world country, it shouldn’t be tough for children
- The lowest paid always reinvest their money in the economy – if you protect their disposable income it improves their quality of life and they reinvest it in the economy
- The choices you make at budget time should not just be about helping the economy in the long-run, but a reflection what type of society we live in and what we value.
Sinn Féin proposals (total €596.7 million):
- Fund a central schoolbook provision scheme for all school children, which would see books provided free of cost to schools for children’s use. Cost: €60 million
- Provide every primary school child in the state with a free lunch meal. Cost: €250 million
- Reverse changes to the non-adjacent grant - As part of Budget 2011, only students living a minimum of 45 kilometres from their college will be eligible for the ‘non-adjacent’ grant, affecting almost 25,000 students and their families. Cost: €43 million
- Return the 200 SNAs cut in the last budget. Cost: €6 million
- Remove the levy on medical card prescriptions. Cost: €24 million
- Make tax credits refundable. According to Social Justice Ireland, this would benefit 113,000 lowincome individuals in an efficient and cost-effective manner (Social Justice Ireland study July 5, 2010). When children and other adults in the household are taken into account the total number of beneficiaries would be 240,000. Cost: €140 million
- Reverse the cuts to the Household Benefits Package (to be funded in part from negotiating a bulk discount from the energy providers). The Household Benefits Package provides a range of allowance options for state pensioners, some carers and people with disabilities. The cuts were announced by Fine Gael and Labour the same week Bord Gáis announced price hikes of up to 30% for electricity and gas. We would seek a bulk buying discount of 14.3% (fuel allowance dealt with separately). Cost: €25 million
- Restore the cut of €3.90 made this year to Fuel Allowance recipients in smokeless zones and extend that increase to all recipients. In September 2011 the means-tested Fuel Allowance which is paid weekly for 32 weeks was cut from €23.90 to €20 (16%) in smokeless fuel zones. The cost of restoring this supplement is €18.7 million. However the rationale for the higher payment in some geographic areas as against others is less relevant today so it would be fairer to harmonise this payment for all recipients. Cost: €48.7 million.