Just not enough to go around - Budget 2017

WHEN Finance Minister Michael Noonan rises to present Budget 2017 in the Dáil this afternoon a great many people who still find it tough and are just barely getting by under the ongoing programme of austerity, will be hoping against hope that he pulls something out of the hat for them. From that perspective, it promises to be a populist catch-all budget with something small for everyone in the audience.
Just not enough to go around - Budget 2017

In adroit management of public expectations, Mr Noonan recently warned that no hats would be thrown in the air tomorrow after the €1.2bn resting in the exchequer coffers has been doled out. Proof again, if it were needed, that the tax base in this country is too small. While that sum may be enough for what essentially looks like being a people’s budget, it would not go very far towards mending the financial crises surrounding health, education, and housing.

The trouble is that an awful lot of money will go towards buying off organisations. That’s not to say that the elderly do not deserve the rise of €5 a year as promised by Fine Gael before the last election. This has been the centre of last-minute haggling, described yesterday by Mr Noonan as “small differences”, between Fianna Fáil and government which wanted to stall payment until March or June so it could also be given to other welfare recipients including disabled people, carers, widows, and the blind. With the administration in a Fianna Fáil arm-lock, a party now visibly in election mode with Fine Gael also aware of the importance of capturing the grey vote.

You may be sure no such delay will be entertained in Leinster House next summer when TDs get a rise of €5,000 each. Is it any wonder politicians, who receive grossly excessive pay and perks plus over-generous pensions, are said to have their snouts in the trough?

As they set about carving up the national cake, both Mr Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe will be acutely aware that this budget is set against a backdrop of industrial unrest in an economy that is slowing down in the dark shadow of Britain’s “hard Brexit” policy. The danger posed by Brexit is already emerging with more small and medium sized exporters in danger of going to the wall. Indeed, the Governor of the Central Bank, Philip Lane, has warned that there will be more volatility in financial and currency markets now known as a “flash crash” as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Besides supporting first time house buyers which could bump up house prices, there will also be a rural aid package and some tweeking of the much hated USC tax, as well as a welcome boost for childcare worth around €70m, a reward for the early support from children and youth minister Katherine Zappone to this shaky government during its difficult birth.

All eyes will today be on the budget cake including those of 40,000 nurses, 18,000 teachers, and 13,500 gardaí all seeking pay restoration. But the jam will be too thinly spread to go around.

More in this section

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd