independent

Monday 27 March 2017

Budget set to bring new hardships

DECLAN MALONE

THE harsh austerity budget delivered by Finance Minister Michael Noonan this week comes dressed up as a necessary 'adjustment' designed to bring the nation's spending more into line with what we can afford, to spread the burden more equally and to win back our economic sovereignty.

This is utter spin of course and no matter how it's dressed up the reality is that this budget will mean a lot more hardship and more people pushed below the breadline.

We have been forewarned that this budget will be the harshest we have endured since the country's economic collapse. The sugar coating though is that things will get better from here on. Most of the ' heavy lifting' - the cuts and tax increases - will have been achieved and future adjustments will be less severe.

There is no reason to believe any of this - not when we will still have to borrow massively to cover the day to day costs of running the state and particularly when we remain weighed down by bank debts so colossal that the numbers defy the comprehension of ordinary mortals.

This budget will see a wave of public outrage directed at the already strained coalition Government partnership and it will be well deserved. People accept the need to rein in spending and live within our means. But it's just too much to stomach when another round of desperately harsh cuts and tax hikes drives people into poverty while the nation's leaders seem blind to the plight of those who are being bled dry to pay for the mess left behind by the reckless greed of the Celtic Tiger fat cats.

The previous incompetent Government aided and abetted the bankers and developers in driving the country over an economic precipice. But now those who promised reform are starting to look like their predecessors. It's this rather than the budgets package of hardships alone, that is so utterly unpalatable.

It's all well and good for our national leaders to talk of the need for everyone to put a shoulder to the wheel for the good of the country, but a mockery is made of that notion when we see politicians on lavish salaries (South Kerry Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin being a notable exception after giving half his salary to pay for a teacher at Fybough National School) claiming unjustifiable expenses as an entitlement. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of unfortunate homeowners can't sleep at night thinking about how they'll meet their mortgage repayments.

Top bankers continue to be paid eye-watering salaries - for fear we'll lose them - the Government is happy to stretch pay limits for special advisers and developers whose debts have been taken over by the taxpayers are being paid €100,000 a year to manage their fallen empires. All of these excesses are OK apparently - mere peanuts compared to the scale of the mountain of debt we are told we have to carry. For that we'll have to go, as always, to the ordinary people - the workers, the unemployed, the old and the young who are expected to carry the weight of this nation's problems. That some will go hungry or be driven to despair as a result seems of little consequence. It really isn't good enough. If the politicians are unable to manage the country and its civil service let them honestly admit it and stop leading us up the garden path.

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