Saturday 21 October 2017

Sinead Ryan: Paschal's Budget was as boring as the first half of the big match

Shane Duffy leads the celebrations in Cardiff on Monday night. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Duffy leads the celebrations in Cardiff on Monday night. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

The single biggest thing Paschal Donohoe had going for him before he announced the Budget wasn’t the “fiscal space” – it was the win against Wales on Monday night.

Consumer sentiment is an economic reckoner used by statisticians to determine how people feel about spending, and how they feel about spending pretty much sums up how they feel about the Government.

It’s the Kiss argument: “Keep it simple, stupid”.

The “feel-good” factor as people celebrate a World Cup qualifier win cannot be underestimated. It’s just as well. The Budget was about as boring as the first half of the match.

It was all well flagged in advance, despite Leo’s warnings to cabinet colleagues about excessive kite-flying.

A tenner a head each week all round won’t change the world, but everyone will feel they got something.

It was a lesson in swings and roundabouts, winners and  losers.

The “losers” were the fat-cat landowners and vulture funds who are hoarding sites instead of developing them for much-needed housing.

The Government only has itself to blame for this as it didn’t put any conditions on the land it got Nama to flog and offered massive tax breaks instead, so few of us will feel sorry for them.

They’re trying to back-peddle on that now with sanctions imposed on those for not building, and new funding for those who are, along with higher stamp duty for commercial property transactions.

The haul is being divvied out among the rest of us, so we’re all “winners”, albeit mostly in such a small way that we won’t really feel it.

Pensioners and those on social welfare are winners for a start, with an extra fiver a week in benefits.

They’re getting more, relatively speaking, then workers on the new, higher minimum wage, which may be considered a barrier to work, but if they’re smokers, the 50c extra tax will be felt in their pockets.

Families with small children also win. Although child benefit was untouched, funding for longer pre-school education means lower bills for childcare.

Taxpayers will be happy with ongoing (though small) cuts in the hated USC and the widening of the lower-rate income tax band.

The Home Carer Tax Credit increase of €100 will be paid to stay-at-home parents, while nobody will begrudge the extra funding for special needs assistants.

Watch out for those sugary drinks, though. A tax of 20-30c is being slapped on in an attempt to curtail the obesity crisis.

Leo and Paschal are both fans of healthy living so this isn’t a surprise, although they will need permission from the EU to implement it.

The “sunbed” loophole has also been closed. Most people would agree that anything which reduces skin cancer rates is a good thing, so the only loser is melanoma.

Brexit and its effects were like a dark shadow hovering over Dail proceedings. A welcome €300m is being made available for SMEs who need loans at reasonable interest rates, and the retention of the low 9pc VAT rate for hotels and restaurants is an attempt to shore up tourism during Britain’s divorce from Europe.

This measure should have been nixed this year but we’ll all benefit from the stable prices... if you can find a hotel room, that is.

Although housing loomed large in the speech, the homeless and renters were losers this time round. There was no increase in emergency measures to house those without a roof over their heads.

HAP payments are increasing, although experts say this will only serve to increase rents, already sky-rocketing. The promises about new social and private housing units will take years to come to fruition.

Let’s hope Ireland continue their football success. The cheery Budget news will be soon forgotten.

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