O Caolain - A Budget of Inequality
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described Budget 2004 as a "Budget of Inequality" and an "empty package wrapped in tinsel paper marked 'decentralisation'".
He said: "This is a Budget of Inequality which does nothing to narrow the gap between wealth and poverty maintained by Minister McCreevy in every Budget since 1997.
"The Government has broken its promises to deliver substantive increases in Child Benefit and old age pensions to levels that will meet the National Anti-Poverty Strategy targets. An increase of €1.50 and €2 per child per week is pathetic from a Government that boasts that it is addressing child poverty.
"The social welfare increases in this Budget are inadequate and are already undermined by stealth taxes such as local authority charges, the savage 16 cuts to welfare entitlements and the cuts in CE schemes. It is disgraceful that the government did not use its increased revenue to reverse these cuts, especially the miserly and dangerous Rent Allowance cut.
"This Budget did nothing to end the gross inequality of our taxation system. Last year top Irish executives awarded themselves 50% pay increases yet the highest earners still pay tax at the same rates as ordinary PAYE workers.
"Tax benefits for the lower paid in this Budget are also totally inadequate and are also undermined by stealth charges and health charges like the raising of the ceiling for the Drug Payment Scheme and the increased charges for A&E. This has especially hit those whose incomes are above the qualifying level for the medical card - the 200,000 people were promised by Fianna Fáil that the medical card would be extended to them. This Budget spurned that promise because it was totally silent on Health.
"This Budget was an empty package wrapped in tinsel paper marked 'decentralization'. Decentralisation is not a Budget measure but something which has been promised by Minister McCreevy every year since 1999. I welcome plans to move Departments out of Dublin but we must ask how long it will take to deliver these promises. There is no timescale for this programme but it is obvious that the main time period the government has in mind is run-up the local elections of June 2004." ENDS