Saturday 10 December 2016

Squeezed middle will raise a glass of craft beer to Budget 2016

Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30

It came as something of a welcome surprise that the Government resisted the calls to increase tax on booze, fatty foods and fizzy drinks.
It came as something of a welcome surprise that the Government resisted the calls to increase tax on booze, fatty foods and fizzy drinks.

Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly there yet?

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Like giddy kids in the back of a car driven by a grumpy old man, we tuned in to this Budget with a most unusual sense of anticipation. Have we really ended our national seven-year bitch, where each successive budget seemed to contain some new and hideous Halloween surprise?

Could we really expect Michael Noonan to go against his better instincts and insist that there was something for everyone in the audience?

Well, yes and no.

The last few budgets have seen a familiar pattern emerge: a series of suitably apocalyptic leaks emerge with their own dire predictions of impending doom, only for the reality to be slightly less horrific than expected, thus bringing a weird sense of relief that while they were bad, they could have been worse.

But as the country begins to get off its knees and back on its feet, the people wanted Budget 2016 to reflect the tentative optimism we've been hearing so much about.

The fact that Noonan delivered his speech with all the enthusiasm of an ISIS hostage reading his own ransom demand seemed at odds with the little nuggets of good news he delivered.

Sure, he was hardly expected to enter the chamber on top of a white horse followed by a gaggle of cheerleaders chanting his name. However, the only time he expressed anything other than a strangely subdued and morose air of resignation came when he was being heckled, prompting his famous scowl and a threatening "have ye got a problem?" to the opposition hecklers. Thankfully the Ceann Comhairle stepped in to calm nerves with a simple: "Would you ever stay quiet and cut out the comedian stuff."

Everyone's a comic, it seems, although in this Dáil, they're mostly just jokes. This was a good budget for the mythical 'squeezed middle' - which is basically anyone with a job - although the Government's earlier claim that they would adopt a 'holistic' approach to the housing crisis seemed daft. After all, even with the best will in the world, feng shui and wind chimes won't build more gaffs.

The first item in the firing line was the hated USC; a truly unjustifiable piece of State-sanctioned theft which will now be reduced before ultimately being phased out by 2020.

Of course, smokers are expected to pay for that by forking out an extra 50 cent for a packet of fags.

And, you know what? Most smokers won't mind. Sure, we're used to being beaten like an unloved stepchild with every budget and it's telling that this price hike is the only tax increase of the entire Budget. But at least we have a choice when it comes to smoking, which is more than we ever had with the USC.

It came as something of a welcome surprise that the Government resisted the calls to increase tax on booze, fatty foods and fizzy drinks.

In fact, showing their previously unsuspected hipster credentials, they are cutting the excise on micro breweries. This means even more people will now be encouraged to drink craft beers, which was jolly nice of them - although the move did enrage Ross O'Carroll Kelly, who angrily Tweeted that there should be a tax break to encourage more people to drink Heineken.

Few people probably realised that there was a five quid stamp duty on pass cards to even be scrapped in the first place. Replacing it with a 12 cent fee every time we use a debit card is, I suppose, a welcome sign that we have a bit more money to take out, even if doesn't feel like that yet.

Election budget or not an election budget? We won't care. It was just a welcome change to bursting into tears on budget day.

Irish Independent

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