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Budget 2014 another major mistake: Doherty

15 October, 2013 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described Budget 2014 as another major mistake from the government.

Deputy Doherty said:

“When in opposition Michael Noonan called the Fianna Fail’s budgets “major mistakes”. Today he made another major mistake.

“This budget should have been about reducing the tax burden on ordinary families, protecting public services and investing in jobs. Instead it is another anti-growth and unfair budget.

“This is Minister Noonan’s third budget and the third peddling the same policies which he himself said were counterproductive in opposition. Those policies have led us to the point where we are to expect nothing but 0% growth, high unemployment levels, emigration and poverty.

“The cuts to the bereavement grant and young people’s jobseekers’ allowance are brutal and mean. The opportunity to give people a break has been missed once more and the burden has been put onto the most vulnerable once more.

“Sinn Fein showed in our alternative budget how some of the worst cuts could have been reversed and the deficit reduced through fair taxes and a range of savings. By pushing for extra austerity this government has once more mad a major mistake.”

 

Full text of Pearse Doherty’s speech. Check against delivery

Minister I want to start off by reading you something.

“The Government has made major mistakes and they continue to make them today. The Government never learned that one cannot tax and cut one’s way out of a recession. One can only grow out of a recession. Consequently, their slash and burn policies were counter-productive.”

Minister, that is spot on.

I couldn’t have written that better myself – in fact I think I’ve said something like that in previous budget speeches.

But I didn’t write that Minister. You did.

You wrote it and delivered it in this chamber, when you were on this side of the house and Fianna Fail was on that side, in December 2010.

So what’s happened Minister?

Did you believe that when you said it and what has changed?

Because here we are, on your third budget announcement, and again you are peddling the same policies which you yourself said are counterproductive.

Those policies have led us to the point where we are to expect nothing but 0% growth, high unemployment levels, emigration and poverty.

Geallann sibh cuid mhór, ach is beag a chuireann sibh ar fáil.

 

1913 Lockout

Minister your government delivers its third austerity budget in the year we mark the 1913 lockout, a time when great Irish men and women stood up against greed, unfairness and the unending pursuit of profit on the backs of Irish workers.

One hundred years after the great event, the words of the poem that celebrated it should be engraved over the office doors of the Minister for Finance:

“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone.”

Minister, Fine Gael and Labour have truly dried the marrow from the bone.

Along with Fianna Fail, you have inflicted upon the Irish people six successive years of austerity and over €28 billion in taxes and cuts; and you come in here today and tell the Irish people that that was not enough.

You tell them that ordinary families must pay more taxes, see their public services diminished even further and their safety nets taken away, while you fumble in the greasy till and protect the highest earners, including yourselves.

Ní thig libh a thuilleadh a fháisceadh as muintir na hÉirean.

100 years after the lockout, your Government has locked itself into austerity.

The Irish people, locked outside the gates today and protesting this budget will be ignored by you, as they are every year.

Like in 1913, this is a day when they deserve to see courage and leadership in addressing the economic woes inflicted on our State.

My party has categorically proven that this Government has a range of options in front of it when it comes to formulating the budget.

We submitted to you last week a detailed Fair budget proposal.

It would have reduced the tax burden for ordinary families.

It would have protected public services.

It would have invested in jobs, in a very real way, to create the numbers of jobs needed to kickstart growth in this economy.

And it was costed by your own departments, the only party to have done so.

Minister, I am more than aware of the problems facing our state.

Tá an imirce an dífhostaíocht agus an bhochtaineacht mar chuid de ghnáth shaol na ndaoine anois ar fud na tíre, ach feicimse seo ach go h-áirithe i dTír Chonaill agus Iarthar na hÉireann.

Is as Iarthar na hÉireann don Taoiseach, ach tá sé soiléir go dtugann sé cúl le cine agus go ndéanann sé dearmad ar mhuintir Mhuigh Eo a luaithe is a shuíonn sé isteach ina charr le aghaidh a thabhairt ar Bhaile Átha Cliath.

The Sinn Féin party does not shrink from meeting the economic problems we face.

We would face them with courage, with leadership, with honesty and most importantly, with solutions.

What you have given people today is another budget lacking in vision and lacking in fair solutions.

It is, for the third time, a complete capitulation by the Labour Party, who have sold their principles for the price of power and delivered here today more cuts to the very departments they claimed they would protect.

What they did?

Minister, you’re an expert at delivering these budget speeches now.

As usual, you lead off with all the guff about how great you are and bury the bad news.

You don’t make a €2.5 billion adjustment made up mainly of cuts without hitting people where it hurts.

This is a budget written by spin doctors.

The devil is always in the detail.

And you have gone back to the same hard-pressed families as usual and asked for more.

Hikes in excise duty.

Cuts to maternity benefit. That’s the second time you’ve hit mothers.

Cuts to illness benefit. Cuts to the drugs initiative of 7%.

A cut to the telephone allowance.

I mean – what is your goal with that one – hit the OAPs, but take away their phones so they can’t ring you to complain?

An increase in the rent supplement contribution.

You’ve abolished the bereavement grant. How low will you go?

There are measures that you have introduced as you try to soften the blow and I welcome them, because they are measures we called for.

However, the context in which you introduce them is brutal.

You introduce free GP care for under-fives when you are at the same time withdrawing medical cards from very vulnerable people.

You are pitting grandparent against grandchild to make pitiful savings and people can see through it.

I also welcome the decision to introduce a bank levy.

It is for too short a period however.

Your Government and the last Government pumped €65 billion into the banks.  A short-term levy does not compensate for that.  

But today we hear no mention of the game changer you promised last year – the seismic change from the ESM that was to ease the bank debt burden.

The fact is – the bitterness of what you are asking people to swallow today is made no sweeter by the handful of measures you hope to distract people with.

 

What they should have done

Minister, in the Sinn Féin fair budget alternative, we argued for a lesser adjustment to be made.

I am glad you heeded that call.

I am disappointed that you did it with a sleight of hand – introducing €2.5 billion of an adjustment in tax and savings, but also using money from the state’s cash reserves, from the sale of the lotto and other areas, to bring the actual adjustment up to €3.1 billion.

The Irish people aren’t naïve when it comes to the games of politicians.

They can see when they are being sold a pup because the Labour Party needs a fig leaf to cover its blushes.

'Céard dó a sheasann Páirtí an Lucht Oibre i dtólamh?'

What the Labour Party should have argued for, in addition to a lower adjustment, was a budget that gave the people something back.

That is what Sinn Féin’s fair budget proposed.

We set out a series of measures including:

·         abolishing the property tax for 1.8 million householders;

·         taking 296,000 low earners out of the USC;

·         restoring the full respite care grant;

·         reducing the cost of school books for children;

·         rolling out school meals to an additional 500 schools;

and increasing the fuel allowance season, all paid for and still allowing for an adjustment of just under €2.5 billion.

We proposed over 30 tax and savings measures, costed by your departments, to eliminate waste from public spending, reduce the salaries of politicians and high paid public sector workers, and ask those who could afford it to pay more tax.

Not only is this Government not prepared to give something back, but you come in and slash another €1.6 billion from essential frontline spending.

Over the last week we have heard parents of sick children and children with special needs describe the horrifically stressful situations they have found themselves in because they have lost medical cards.

Minister, the parents of these children should not have to become full time lobbyists to get your attention.

They should not have to spend precious time away from their children, who need them, writing letters and attending protests and ringing Government offices.

Nor should they have to produce a begging bowl to get what should be theirs by right.

Where is your threshold of decency?

I encountered one such group of parents and children this year.

It’s astonishing to imagine that up to now, the Government has been implementing a policy of providing profoundly deaf little children with only one hearing implant.

That’s the equivalent of providing a short-sighted child a pair of glasses with only one lens.

When the provision of two ear implants is better for that child’s development than one – why would you only give one?

And to make matters worse, when the one implant fails, which they frequently do, those children are cast back into the world of silence again.

I have heard the heartbreaking stories from the parents of these children who have had to witness their little babies distress, confusion and frustration when they go from hearing the world around them to hearing nothing.

These parents have ran a campaign all year for their children and for all of our children and they are in the gallery today Minister.

They are heroes.

The country’s purse strings are not yours and yours alone.

The money with which you run the State and pay yourself handsomely, comes from taxpayers’ pockets.

It comes from the pockets of these parents.

When you cut or underfund the health service – you are cutting and underfunding the service that taxpayers have paid for.

If your Minister cannot manage the Health budget, then he should be fired.  

If he has neither the guts, nor the will to take on the powerful lobby groups that suck money out of the health service like leeches, money that should be spent on medical cards and the provision of ear implants for deaf children, then he should be fired.

That is what An Taoiseach said he would do with Ministers who did not perform.

Mortgage Arrears

Minister, we have heard a lot of figures today. We should make sure though that we don’t forget some very important ones.

142, 892  - That was the number of mortgages in distress at the end of June this year.

It is a figure that has doubled under this Government.

Minister, you cannot even begin to imagine the worry that people who cannot pay their mortgages face.

You cannot put yourself in the place of a mother and father, who look at their young children every night and wonder, are they about to lose the roof over their heads?

It is not that these families will not pay their mortgages.

They cannot pay their mortgages.

Fianna Fáil housing policy saddled families with these unsustainable debts.

Fine Gael and Labour at every opportunity have protected the banks, and supported and enabled them in their moves against families with distressed mortgages.

Where on your priority list is the Irish family with a mortgage?

This year you were forced to acknowledge that mortgage distress is a problem because the stark facts on the banks’ balance sheets told you it was a problem.

What were your solutions?

You removed the Dunne judgment which protected the family home. You gave the banks the OK to send out nearly 15,000 legal letters threatening repossession.

And you allow Personal Insolvency Practitioners to cherry pick the most lucrative cases, leaving the banks happy in the knowledge that they have the final say.

In our fair budget proposal, we set out a plan for publicly funded personal insolvency practitioners, so at least every person in mortgage distress could be assured access to this service and have it free of charge.

Sinn Fein also produced legislation just last week that would have strengthened the hands of families with distressed mortgages in dealing with the banks.

Today you announce that you are going to cut mortgage interest supplement, a payment made to people with mortgages who have lost their jobs.

Is it our fault Minister that we look for logic where there is none in your policies?

Codlóidh sibh go sámh anocht fad is atá na h-athaireacha agus mathaireacha sin nach dtig leo a gcuid morgáistí a íoc ina luí dúisithe sa leaba agus iad buartha fán méid atá rompu maidin amárach.

Where you have been consistent is with the banks.

You are very clearly on their side.

You said you would implement the Mercer Report to cut bankers pay, yet you allowed the top bankers to make savings by firing lower paid staff , closing down branches and cutting customer care – while the likes of Richie Boucher, the head of Bank of Ireland, is allowed to continue to pay himself over €800,000 a year.

Not one of the 2,500 bankers who earn over €100,000 per annum has taken a pay cut.

Earlier this year to refused to use the state’s shareholding in the Bank of Ireland to force Richie Boucher to take a pay cut.

Riddle me this Minister.

You have no problem standing up here and telling young unemployed people, elderly people and even children that they have to take cuts, yet you balk at the notion of telling bankers they must reduce their oversized pay.

How do you justify that Minister?

How do you justify it to yourself and the Irish people that a 24 year old can live on €100 a week but Richie Boucher can pay himself over €800,000 a year?

 

The need for growth

Minister, the Irish people and the Irish economy are feeling the effects of your ambitionless policies.

We face the reality of 0% growth in 2013.

Yet you introduce a budget today which goes beyond the necessary target next year and aims for 4.8% deficit to GDP.

Every point of a percent extra is €160 million of additional cuts and taxes.

You cannot seriously believe that putting the foot on the accelerator of austerity will do anything for growth?

This from the Minister who stated so vehemently that you could not cut your way out of a recession.

Sinn Féin has shown how a multi-billion euro stimulus package could create in the region of 100,000 jobs. 

That is how you drive economic growth.

Jobs and Government

When this Government came to power the unemployment rate was 13.5%. Now it is 13.3%.

That in addition to the 176,000 that having emigrated on your Government’s watch.

60% of those unemployed are now categorised as long term unemployed.

The Jobs Minister is fond of saying that the Government does not create jobs, and this is very true of this Government.

We are in a jobs crisis and the Government’s official response has been to hold press launches and produce reports.

You have announced today what you call a €500 million stimulus.

I welcome the extension of the 9% VAT rate, we called for it.

I am also pleased to hear the announcement of several other measures, including raising the VAT accounting threshold as we called for in the Finance Committee.

But Minister, €500 million is a drop in the ocean for the crisis we face in jobs, and let’s be honest, it comes on top of a lot of undelivered announcements from you and your colleagues.

You are serial announcers, but always choke at the delivery.

The only box you don’t tick in your plans to create jobs is creating any jobs!

When are you going to start giving unemployed people the priority they deserve?

There’s €6.4 billion in the NPRF. The response has to be proportionate to the crisis, but you don’t get that.

Benefit Cut to Young People

Today you cut dole payments to young adults under 24.

Minister, these people were doing their junior certificate when this crisis started.

Yet you expect them to carry the can for the mistakes of this Government and the last.

Since this Government came to power there are 18,000 less young people working in the economy.

1,700 are emigrating of every week. The vast majority are young educated and underemployed.

We now have generation Skype and a whole generation of heartbroken parents.

The jobs Minister has set out the priorities for next year’s Action Plan for Jobs. There is no mention of young people.

You announce €14 million for a youth guarantee. Minister, it’s pathetic. A proper youth guarantee would require hundreds of millions.

Let’s call this cut to dole payments what it is – an incentive to emigrate.

End of the bailout

Minister, in spite of all this harsh reality, you stand over there clapping yourself on the back because we’re almost at the end of the bail-out programme.

The Irish people want to see us leave this bail-out but it’s because they believe on the other side of it we reclaim our sovereignty.

You have told them that the decisions that have been made were forced on us by the Troika.

But Minister, your mask has slipped.

The Troika is not making you go beyond next year’s targets with more austerity.

The Troika has not said you have to go another €480 million beyond your target, with more cuts and taxes. That’s your policy.

The Troika does not tell you where the axe should fall or on whom.

You’ve been making those choices yourself and will continue to do so.

And, to top it off, as a result of what you have signed up to in Europe, we are going to be under German and EU surveillance for a long time, but with no quid pro quo.

No debt write-off, no commitment on the bank debt, and no ease up on austerity.

Next year’s budget like this one will have to be passed in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin.

While you congratulate yourself on how well you think you’re doing, you’re only revealing how utterly detached you are from the realities faced by the Irish people.

They will have listened to your speech and they’ll have been asking themselves, how did I benefit from the bail-out?

Here’s what happened from their perspective.

You borrowed €67 billion from the Troika, €65 billion of which you put into the banks.

You then went back to the people every year, for six years, and said we need to raise your taxes and cut your public services to pay for your bailout.

And when anyone raised the truth of what was happening with you, you resorted to the press line you were issued – ‘oh, this money is needed to pay the wages of the nurses and the teachers and the guards.’

The poor nurses, teachers and guards have been trotted out to defend every rotten decision Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour have made – as though they have been somehow insulated from your policies and haven’t been taxed and cut to the hilt themselves all the way.

Minister, you have no cause to be congratulating yourself.

Fianna Fáil created this crisis.

Fine Gael and Labour deepened this crisis and will leave us with a debt legacy for this crisis.

In 2008, our deficit was just over 7%. In 2013, the deficit is just over 7%.

In the interim, you’ve taken €28 billion out of the economy, crucified Irish families and decimated public services, all while protecting the banks.

That’s not something to celebrate.

Conclusion

Minister, how you treat the deficit, can add to or fix the problem.

There is scope for a deficit adjustment next year from fair measures, as Sinn Féin has shown.

But you don’t do fair.

In An Taoiseach’s speech to nominate the Government in 2011, he delivered a powerful observation of where the State was at.

He said:

“Our republic is betrayed.

People are frightened of losing their homes.

Parents are rendered speechless at the sight of their children boarding planes to countries where Spring is Autumn, and our today is their tomorrow.

Employers are traumatised by laying off staff and shutting down businesses.

Workers pray for invisibility, as they queue for the Dole.

Families worry that the neighbours might see the Vincent de Paul calling to their door.

Dreading the postman: dropping bills like stealth-bombs into the hall.”

Well. What has this Government done to make the situation better for those people An Taoiseach described?

The answer is nothing.

You’ve just intensified their pain, their worry and their anguish.

Our Republic is betrayed, Taoiseach.

You have had three opportunities now to fix that.

Three budgets.

But there is nothing in what you offered today to put the economy on the right track or to offer people the solace they need.

The bills will still fall from the letter box.

The planes will still be full of our young people leaving.

The dole queues still snake around the block.

People still fear losing their homes and the St. Vincent de Paul is busier than ever.

Minister, your budget is as empty as the words An Taoiseach use in his speeches. 

 

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