Almost 100 members of the local business community made their way to the Talbot Hotel last Wednesday morning for the Pricewaterhouse Coopers/Wexford Chamber annual Budget Breakfast.
The early morning briefing was spearheaded by three senior staff members of PwC: Billy Sweetman, Partner, Wexford; Brian Hogan, Senior Manager Wexford and tax expert; and Paul Hennessy, Partner, Dublin, who first came up with the concept of the Budget Breakfast 33 years ago.
The main aim was to analyse Budget 2019 and put it into practical terms for people.
Brian Hogan spoke about the impact of the increased VAT rate on the tourism and hospitality sector saying that while it may not have a huge effect in large cities, provincial Ireland would no doubt suffer.
He also spoke about the predicted increase on excise duty on cigarettes, the retention of the 9% VAT rate on newspapers and sporting facilities, as well as the reduced VAT rate (from 23% to 9%) on e-publications.
Brexit was mentioned by all speakers and was 'the elephant in the room'.
Billy Sweetman outlined the four H's that comprised the Budget: hospitality, healthcare, housing and hope. He was not convinced by the Taoiseach's claims that the Budget had 'Brexit-proofed' the country.
Other points discussed by Mr Sweetman were income tax, benefit-in-kind (BIKs) and carbon tax.
He concluded his discussion by paying tribute to Paul Hennessy who is to retire from PwC at the end of the month.
Mr Hennessy provided the crowd with an overview of the macro-economic environment, saying the reduction in the national debt in relative terms would come from economic growth. He also believed that there would be a continued increase in the services spend for the 2019 financial year.
He concluded that there was a need to focus on the competitiveness of Ireland in the global landscape and how this can be improved in the years ahead.