Thursday, 12 October 2017
Financial Resolutions 2018 - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (Resumed)
The last speaker has it all wrong. If one reflects on the journey we have travelled, this is the best budget for the country. I remember sitting in here when unemployment was at 15%, borrowing was at 15% and interest rates were at 15%. Some 300,000 people had lost their jobs.
Sinn Féin's solution was that we should walk out on our debts. That would have made all those problems worse. There is not a single speaker on the Sinn Féin benches who will recognise that over the last few years, while they have opposed everything this Government has sought to do, we have brought unemployment down from 15% to 6%. We have brought the cost of borrowing down from 14% to 0.5% and less, and we have reduced State borrowing from where we could only raise moneys from the troika down to having a balanced budget, with a deficit of less than 0.5%. That is real progress and 228,000 people are now back at work under the policies of this and the previous Government. They are, by and large, working in very good quality employment; in IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland companies. While there of course are also people who are employed in lower-paid sectors, we have had four increases in the minimum wage since 2011, which is a very significant improvement. We have rowed back across all of those very difficult tax burdens that bound those people. The universal social charge, USC, has been consistently rowed back in the past three budgets. We have reduced the burden on hard-working families. That has made a difference to people who were put to the pin of their collar to survive in a very difficult period.
Sinn Féin cannot acknowledge any of that progress. What is more, their prescription for the economy for the future is just unsustainable. It has proposed a budget that would see, at the upper end of income, a 75% tax burden on higher incomes. There is not any economy outside North Korea that would consider it possible to grow employment opportunities by having taxes of 75% imposed on people at work.