Call to protect poor in budget


The anti-poverty organisation Social Justice Ireland has urged the Government not to favour the rich at the expense of the poor in Budget 2013.

The Government’s approach to resolving the State’s economic crisis involves protecting the rich at the expense of the rest of the population, according to the director of Social Justice Ireland (SJI).

Fr Seán Healy said the Government has the freedom to make choices in Budget 2013 which will impact less severely on the poor.

Launching SJI’s proposed Budget 2013 document in Dublin, Fr Healy said it was “untrue that choices are being imposed by the IMF”.

The IMF, he said, has no problem with Ireland taking a different approach to saving the €3.5 billion required under the bailout programme.

Fr Healy said the model employed by the Government to achieve the agreed benchmarks was flawed. “Ireland has been implementing the terms of the bailout but the benefits have not followed,” he said, noting the increase in long-term unemployment and emigration.

If the Government continues to implement the current system “a generation will be lost”.

In its alternative budget document, the SJI calls for a major investment programme; protection of public services; a tax system that collects up to 35 per cent of GDP; and “a fairer distribution of the ‘hits’ in the budget”. It says tax increases and expenditure reductions should be carried out on a ratio of two to one.

The document proposes the introduction of a universal pension payment for everyone over 65. This would be set at €230.30, the level of the Contributory Old Age Pension, and replace the current old age pension.

SJI recommends introducing a 2.5 per cent levy on all corporate profits, which it estimates would yield €750 million in taxation revenue in 2013. When asked about the possibility of such a charge discouraging foreign direct investment, Fr Healy said many companies in Ireland use loopholes to avoid paying the full 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax and that an extra 2.5 per cent levy on profits “would not stretch them too much”.

He urged the Government to scrap the household charge, which he called “totally unjust” and instead adopt a site valuation tax (SVT). This, he claimed, would bring in an additional €340 million in 2013. He said the SVT could be introduced within six months using pre-existing information.

SJI also called for the establishment of a part-time job opportunities programme, modelled on a similar programme piloted in 1994-1998. Initially this would receive funding of €50 million which would increase if the scheme reduced the unemployment figure by 100,000.

Elsewhere, the document claims an off-balance sheet investment package of €7 billion would “address some of the social and infrastructural deficits which remain in Ireland”. This fund would receive capital from the national pension reserve fund, credit unions, capital market borrowing, and the European Investment Bank and Council of Europe Bank.

Responding to an advisory group’s recommendations to reduce child benefit payments from €140 to €100, Fr Healy said any such cuts would be unjust, unfair, unacceptable and unnecessary.

He described the proposals, contained in a report commissioned by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, as “anti-child and anti-family.”