Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020
Mick Barry (Cork North Central, Solidarity)
One thing that will increase for certain are the payments to the private sector landlords. There has been an increase of €18 million in HAP and an extra 15,750 new tenancies. More money will be shovelled towards private landlords for the privatisation of social housing as opposed to building local authority housing.
Ireland also continues to have the highest childcare costs in Europe. Some 27% of the average income of a couple goes on childcare. That will also remain the case. It is more than double the EU average. Ireland spent 0.2% of GDP on childcare, compared to an OECD average four times greater and eight times greater in Sweden. The Government has allocated an additional €54 million to this sector, which will barely cover the demographic changes. That is if it manages to do that at all. The idea of a new national childcare scheme is the equivalent of putting sticking plasters on a failed system. We need nationalisation, a State-owned, publicly run childcare scheme free at the point of use, with decent pay and conditions for workers. Some 90% of those workers currently struggle on the wage they are allocated.
One in ten schools under this budget will get one new teacher, while one in four schools will get one new SNA. That is, again, barely enough to cover demographic increases, if at all. There will be no change in the pupil-teacher ratio, which is the highest in the eurozone. There is also no change to SUSI grants, no increase in State funding in general for the third level sector and no increase for publicly-funded and owned student accommodation. That is a failure in respect of the students and those who use the system.
The question of wealth in this society has become a topic of debate in the past week following an article by David McWilliams. Despite the danger of Brexit, the climate emergency and the housing emergency, it seems that it has not occurred to Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil to levy emergency taxes on wealth and the large corporations in this society. Corporation tax is 12.5%. If the full rate was levied on the corporations based in this country, then that would bring in an extra €2 billion. If the rate were to be doubled, that would bring in more money again. A 2% tax on the richest 5% of people in this country, the so-called "high-net worth" individuals, would bring in an extra €3.25 billion. What could be done with wealth such as that? I refer to addressing the housing crisis, the crisis in our emergency departments, the rest of our health service, etc. A financial transactions tax of a mere 0.1% would provide more than enough money to introduce free public transport.
These are measures, however, that this Government, supported by Fianna Fáil, has not even considered. That is because they are so wedded to the market economy of capitalism and the interests of the richest minority within this society. The Minister for Finance stated that "the centre is holding". If the centre is holding, it is just about doing so. The capitalist market has failed to deliver regarding the issues of the climate emergency, housing and childcare. People are moving decisively against that system in this country because they are hoping against hope that things will turn a corner and turn out well.
Such issues as Brexit and a world economic recession loom on the horizon. It is not a question of if that will strike but when it will strike. There is a major question about how long the centre will hold. Serious struggle is taking place for a fundamental change in society, with radical, left-wing, socialist alternatives coming on to the agenda. Those in the centre should not think that it will hold for much longer.