Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Finance Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)
Frank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
This Bill will do nothing to get credit flowing to small and medium-sized businesses. In the past ten years most small and medium-sized businesses took their eye off the ball when told to diversify into property investment and blue-chip shares in Irish banks to make up for pension provisions. When the whole bubble burst, many of those self-employed or small enterprises went bankrupt. What is obscene about this economic downturn is that those people who got out of bed before eight o'clock every morning to better themselves, create employment and add to the economy are now pariahs. Most of the self-employed have nowhere to turn. The banks have put the boot in and they cannot get any social welfare benefits. They do not have the currency to get back on the first steps of the ladder to recreate the economy. The economy can only be saved by those entrepreneurial and innovative people. However, because the banks have turned the screw and decided to repair their balance sheets, the country has lost the cohort that will take the risks and work around to clock to create employment. That very skills-set is now redundant.
These businesses were good customers of the banks but are now considered bad ones. National Irish Bank, licensed by the Central Bank, despite having 40% of banking business in Roscommon has closed down eight of nine branches there. It claims it wants to be a cashless bank. The branch on my road has not issued a loan since last January because the bank will pull out of this country. There is nothing the Government can or will do about it. When its staff are laid off, they will go on social welfare. Unless we can change how the country thinks and works, we will end up a basket economy.
Recently I lodged a cheque from the State into my current account which will take five days to clear. Due to this delay, 15 cheques that I issued just after lodging that cheque will be returned to me by my bank at a charge of €15 per cheque with the claim of insufficient funds available. I have raised this issue five times with the Minister for Finance but nothing has been done about it. The Government has no interest in the self-employed, the people who created the economy. It is only interested in its own survival and for the banks to repair their balance sheets.
I agree the non-principal residence tax is a good idea for raising moneys for local authorities. However, having visited the Roscommon Associations in Manchester, Birmingham and London, I know many emigrants feel let down that the little house they have back in Ireland, some without even electricity or running water, will be charged this tax. They want to be good citizens but the local authorities are insisting they pay the €200 tax. That is an insult to the Irish diaspora which actually helped rebuild this country by sending money back from abroad. The Government must apologise to those emigrants in the United States and the United Kingdom who have tried to keep a link with this country by keeping a small house, some times just a pile of stones, for not considering them when introducing this tax. It must be amended because the local authorities have not considered all factors involved.
Action needs to be taken against the lucrative black economy in tobacco smuggling. We know the Government loses millions in revenue each year because of this. What we know is often only one tenth of what we should know. I welcome the prosecutions that have so far been taken. However, the Government has created a market in illegal tobacco smuggling which must be more seriously tackled.
The Finance Bill contains many stealth taxes. Credit must flow again for businesses. The banks must be asked some hard questions. The Government has no difficulty in letting the banks close down businesses and, therefore, putting people on the unemployment lines yet it has not asked the banks the hard questions. I have heard it talk about doing so for the past two years but nothing has been done about getting credit flowing again.