Minister for Finance Pascal Donohue faces his most challenging budget ever as he puts the finishing touches to his fiscal programme for delivery next Tuesday (September 27).
Even though Europe is in financial turmoil and inflation has become a growing worldwide problem, the Minister will be expected to open his briefcase and wave a magic wand.
With Sinn Fein always critical of the extent of government handouts, he must deliver a one-for-all menu of one-off payments, increases in social welfare supports and reduction in taxes to help a hard hit Irish population cope with soaring inflation and ever rising cost of living prices.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanáiste Leo Varadkar have already committed to dishing out supports, particularly for lower and middle income family who are struggling to meet rocketing energy bills, childcare, school bills, healthcare, etc.
Will Budget 2023 be a Giveaway or a Gloomsday Budget? With a budget package of €6.7bn, a second giveaway package to aid the battle against rising costs of living could exceed €1.5bn.
Never before have so many agencies called for a generous giveaway budget package with the St Vincent de Paul (SVP), Alone, Barnardos and many more calling for uniform increases across the board.
Calls to the SVP are almost 20% up on this time last year. As well as investment in services in Budget 2023, the SVP is calling for an increase in social protection payments ahead of inflation to ensure that people on low and fixed incomes can stay afloat and to prevent a rise in poverty.
The Society has called for an increase of €20 per week in primary payments, €12 for children over 12 years and €7 for children U12 years is required. SVP called for an increase of €15 in the Fuel Allowance payment and for the expansion of the allowance term to 32 weeks.
Alone an organisation which supports the elderly called for a €20 increase per week in both the state pension and the Fuel Allowance to seriously combat energy poverty and to prevent social isolation. Barnardos called on recent increases in fuel allowance to be retained and to be extended to those dependent on the Working Family Payment.
Barnardos similarly called for core increase of €20 in social welfare payments and for the government to introduce a hardship fund, allowing families access same day payments for heat, electricity and food. The children’s charity also demanded free schoolbooks to all school children and to abolish ‘voluntary’ contributions requested by schools, by increasing school funding and maintaining the increased back to school allowance.
The Labour Party will host its pre-Budget programme today, Thursday, September 22. Party leader, Deputy Ivana Bacik revealed the key proposals Labour want addressed: to cap childcare costs at €200 per month, free GP care for all under 18s, and unlimited public transport for €9 per month.
Deputy Bacik stated the current crisis in energy costs have deprived too many of their dignity.
“Ireland is not working for them. It’s not working for Dublin families who pay thousands in childcare costs; for those who have to think twice about paying to visit a GP when its needed; for households who now face an average €2,000 increase in heating and electricity costs. At the end of the month, they have nothing left.
“Much of the surge in energy prices can be attributed to Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine,” she said. “But the increases that Ireland faces are among the highest in the EU.
“Meanwhile, the corporations which sell electricity, gas and other fuels are bringing in record operating profits. We also reiterate our calls for a cap on energy costs, drastically more accessible solar panel installation, and a windfall tax on the excessive profits of energy companies.”
She concluded: “Figures from the Department of Finance show a surplus of over €6bn this year, yet communities across the country are at breaking point.
Minister Donohue is seriously tasked with serving up a massively supportive and generous Budget 2023 to an already anxious and overburdened electorate.
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