Budget Axe Finally Falls
Deaglán de Bréadún
In the newspaper trade we have what is called a “holding story”. That’s what you write when you don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Then you update it when the full story breaks.
Brian Lenihan: hoping to get a thumbs-up for his Budget (Photograph by Alan Betson)
This present item is what you might call a “holding post”. We all have a fair idea – or think we do – what is going to be in Brian Lenihan’s Budget this afternoon. Cuts in public spending, some gestures towards the protection and creation of jobs but, most of all and most painful of all, tax-hikes.
Except we’re told there won’t be immediate increases in tax-rates. Instead the existing income levies will be raised, in fact, doubled if the forecasts are correct. Everyone’s household finances will be affected. Worried parents will scan the papers tomorrow and try to work out how much the family “coffers” will be depleted.
There will be howls of protest and screams of anguish, no doubt, from special interest groups. Some of them will seem completely justified in their complaints, others less so.
If the Government has done its political calculations, the broad mass of the people, the man or woman on the 16A Bus or in the evening traffic on the fabled N17 road from Galway to Tuam, will take it on the chin. The populace has imbibed the notion that the good times are not rolling any more and, if we want to see them again, we have to make some savings – which will hopefully be temporary. But it’s critical that the burden is seen to be shared with a fair degree of equity, otherwise there could be trouble.
As I write a BBC radio piece on Stanley Baldwin, onetime British prime minister, is playing on the radio. Seemingly he drove the media of the day mad because he was not interested in providing drama. They much preferred colourful characters like Winston Churchill.
Somewhat reminiscent of our own dear Taoiseach, no? But he did generate some excitement yesterday when he announced that all 20 ministers of state would be resigning on 21 April. The following day, 15 “juniors” would be appointed.
As a form of parliamentary discipline it should be very effective. Backbenchers who might have been tempted to vote against the Budget are now very likely to keep their noses clean in the hope of promotion. The outgoing ministers of state will also be on their best behaviour in the hope of being re-appointed. Smart move.
One of my favourite movies, Casablanca, starts off by showing how exiles and refugees from Nazism fled to the Moroccan city to “wait … and wait … and wait”. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long: the axe falls on our finance in a mere six hours or so.