Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Finance Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)
John O'Mahony (Mayo, Fine Gael)
I wish to pick up on the point I was making in regard to the Private Members' motion on the pay cuts for the 600 higher public servants. I refer to the percentage increase which these people enjoyed in the good times. They are now being excused from some of the pain in the difficult times. These higher paid people made greater gains in the good times but are being exempted for taking their fair share of the pain at the expense of the lower paid public service workers.
I have just left a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The issue raised at that meeting by many, including Government and Opposition committee members, related to the travel tax and the reluctance of the Government to remove that tax at a time when figures show millions fewer tourists are coming to Ireland. I am not suggesting all the reduction in the number of tourists is due to the travel tax. Some of the €80 million collected in the travel tax could have been made up elsewhere. We all know of hotels and tourism facilities struggling to survive. Surely the response in this scenario should have been one of support and stimulus rather than one of tariff. It just does not make sense. The airlines and all the tourism bodies are in agreement. A review carried out suggested the removal of this tax yet it is still in place.
There are a number of stealth taxes and charges in this Bill which will not register with people until they have to deal with them upfront. The proposal to end tax relief for bin charges while at the same time introducing VAT on these services will mean a hugely increased charge and will lead to an increase in illegal dumping.
We have all heard the calls for business to be more competitive yet we have a carbon tax, increased toll charges and off-street car parking charges. How will this help business to be more competitive? It will have the opposite effect.
There is no consolation for farmers in this Bill. The continued hits they have taken not only in this budget but in previous ones will send farm incomes into a tailspin. In 2009, the incomes of farmers dropped by more than 30%. The ending of REPS 4 and the failure to pay farmers due money, even though only part of the money is coming from Government coffers, is another scandal. The figures I released for Mayo today suggest that 1,276 farmers are waiting for their REPS 4 payments, even though when I raised this matter with the Minister before Christmas he said they would all be paid in the lead-up to Christmas or in the first days of January. This is not good enough.
Even one small issue, such as the exempting of farm diesel from carbon tax, failed to materialise. This is nothing less than another tax on farming activity. Even the Government's own figures admit the overall effect of this Bill and budget will increase unemployment by 70,000 this year. Today's newspaper headlines may be the beginning of the confirmation of that, as 750 jobs were lost yesterday in Halifax.
Youth unemployment has risen by 150% in the past two years. There are no supports or stimulus for job protection or creation in this Bill. The young people who played no part in causing the problems in the economy are suffering the most. Where is the sense of fairness in this? In any activity in life confidence is one of the great things which will get people back on the rails. There is a total lack of confidence in this economy and this Bill confirms that.