With the price of petrol and diesel set to reach a record high within days, it’s time the Government gave hard-pressed motorists a break.
With food prices also on the increase, there is an onus on the Coalition to ease the financial burden on people struggling to make ends meet.
Though pampered Cabinet ministers may not realise it, the car is an essential and not a luxury for the vast majority of people. The same goes for home heating oil and gas. Undeniably, public transport is so inadequate that the car is vital for driving to and from work and for meeting other pressing demands on families up and down the country. Because of Ireland’s infamous property bubble, long-distance commuting is now the norm for tens of thousands of people, victims of uncontrolled development, poor planning and misguided policies.
To put the Government’s impact on fuel prices in perspective, it is mind boggling to think that on every litre of petrol and diesel the motorist puts into his or her car, a whopping 60% of the price being paid at the pump ends up in government coffers.
Unless the Coalition acts swiftly to ease this heavy burden on motorists, the system will automatically go on treating the car as an extravagance and therefore petrol and diesel will go on being taxed at the highest rate. Arguably, there is a powerful case for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to emulate the example set by his counterpart in France, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who yesterday vowed to introduce a temporary cut in fuel taxes in a bid to drive down the prices that drivers are paying at the pumps and which will continue to soar.
Given the dire state of Ireland’s finances, the financial pressures on the Coalition are obvious but Mr Kenny has scope to give motorists some measure of reprieve by freezing at its present level the additional amount the Government would take in when prices go up again.
Inevitably, oil prices will continue to rise because of the sanctions against Iran. But, as the AA has pointed out, the taxes imposed by the Government are the biggest factor of all.
If the exchequer were to forfeit the additional taxes on the impending price hike, something that could be done at the stroke of a pen, it would have the immediate effect of softening the impact on motorists. It goes without saying a similar measure should apply to commercial transporters also struggling to survive.
The Irish Examiner has a proud record of supporting the campaigns of long-suffering motorists for successive governments to ease the fuel-tax burden. Regrettably, their pleas have been ignored by ministers who enjoy the luxury of being chauffeur driven in state cars at taxpayers’ expense.
But circumstances have changed radically. Never has the plight of the Irish people been more grave nor the scarcity of money more acute. With families striving against the odds to meet high mortgage payments or put food on the table, there has never been greater need for a government to soften the impact of escalating fuel prices rather than squeezing people by cashing in on them.
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