Government stimulus package ‘miserly’, Sinn Féin says

Plan lacks ambition, ‘stay and spend’ subsidy is cumbersome, Mary Lou McDonald says

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said efforts at assisting businesses badly hit by Covid-19 were disproportionately weighted toward loans and debt. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said efforts at assisting businesses badly hit by Covid-19 were disproportionately weighted toward loans and debt. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald dismissed the Government’s stimulus package as “miserly”, saying the tourism and hospitality sector would be underwhelmed by what it offered.

Believing the package lacked ambition, she said efforts at assisting businesses badly hit by Covid-19 were disproportionately weighted toward loans and debt, as opposed to grant aid.

“I think when you look at it in relation to things that have been done in other jurisdictions it’s actually quite miserly,” she told RTÉ News shortly after the stimulus was unveiled on Thursday.

Sinn Féin focused on the tourism and hospitality sector, and Ms McDonald honed in on the stay-and-spend subsidy, which she labelled “cumbersome”.

“It’s a clumsy vehicle and lacks the kind of ambition and the kind of punch that we need now not just to create new jobs but to sustain and to retain the jobs that were already in the sector.”

The party’s spokeswoman on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Louise O’Reilly, said the tourism industry was seeking a reduction in VAT from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent.

Part of the package unveiled on Thursday included a surprise cut in the main rate of VAT from 23 to 21 per cent.

“The tourism, hospitality and accommodation sector needs sector-specific interventions and I don’t think that this is going to give them what it is that they need,” she said.

Defending that decision, however, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told RTÉ a broad tax reduction was a more effective stimulus and that the stay-and-spend initiative was targeted at tourism.

‘Austerity package’

Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit dismissed cuts to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), saying it amounted to an austerity package.

“For huge numbers of workers, some of the most hard-hit sectors, who have lost jobs and income, are going to be kicked while they are down,” he said.

Similarly, Labour spokesman on social protection Seán Sherlock said the PUP cuts were “short-sighted” and bound to hit those who had lost their jobs the hardest.

“The stimulus fails to put money directly into the economy,” he said. “The Government could have increased spending power by increasing social welfare rates by €10 a week.”

The Social Democrats warned that the help-to-buy scheme expansion to a tax relief of €30,000 could result in developers “ending up with more money in their pockets”.

Co-leader Catherine Murphy said the stimulus package must be about putting money into cash registers and into the pockets of those who need it most and will spend it in the short term.

“While there are positive measures contained in today’s announcement, it is vital that those who suffered disproportionately as a result of Covid-19 are the ones who benefit most,” she said.

“This seems to be more of a September stimulus plan than a July one, as so many of the 50 measures announced today appear to be at least two or three months away,” she added.

She said rather than frame the holiday-at-home initiative around a tax rebate it should be in the form of a voucher system tied to PPS “as it could then apply to those who don’t earn enough to pay tax. As it is proposed now, it is deeply unfair that it will not be available to over one-third of the Irish workforce,” she said.

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