OUR best and brightest are being driven to emigrate by a number of factors and high taxation is one of the most prominent among these. That is the assessment of Transport Minister Leo Varadkar talking to our political correspondent today. Mr Varadkar, one of our younger politicians, is talking good sense and his call to focus on taxation reform is most welcome.
The Minister's words come as we prepare to ease our way out of the economic bailout imposed upon us in 2010 by the fecklessness of previous governments. It is also five years to the day since the contentious government decision to guarantee bank deposits up to €100,000, a date fixed in many people's minds as the start of the nation's economic misfortune.
There are many reasons to hope that our darkest days are behind us. So, it is a good time to reflect and forward plan.
Mr Varadkar is not holding out the hope of much in the way of tax cuts on Budget day, October 15 next. It would be unrealistic to hope for such a turnaround as the money is just not there right now.
But the Minister told the Irish Independent that recent figures showing many highly skilled workers are emigrating highlight the need to keep taxes low. "Equality and fairness are important, but we must not push our best talent out of Ireland," he said.
Mr Varadkar wants to put the notion of tax cuts on the political agenda – particularly for income tax and the Universal Social Charge when Ireland exits the bailout later this year. The views were echoed by junior finance minister Brian Hayes who also said the Government cannot continue to "tax the hell" out of people.
These comments are also part of the internal government tussle between Fine Gael and Labour over taxation versus welfare. Labour is keen to protect welfare and has for a long time been pushing for more taxes on higher earners.
The junior coalition partner's commitment to protecting the poorest in society is laudable. But a broader view of increased taxation is also required and Mr Varadkar puts this view rather pithily today. Let us hope that it is the beginning of meaningful political debate leading to change.