Government throws a few measly crumbs while giant corporations and NAMA developers are the real winners

budget speech - CopyIn a statement, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, for the People Before Profit Alliance has described today’s budget as a bag of “pre-election tricks” and “crumbs” that will “do nothing to stem the dire crises in housing and hospitals” and which “utterly fails to address the huge growth in inequality and unfairness that has resulted from seven years of austerity and regressive measures such as property and water taxes”.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said, the very small additional funding for social housing and the health service were “totally inadequate and tokenistic and would guarantee that the crisis in housing and in our hospitals would be worse again in a year’s time”.

Deputy Boyd Barrett described it as “disgraceful” that jobseekers, lone parents and carers were to see no increase in their basic weekly payments.  He said it was “particularly shameful” that jobseekers under 26 were to see no increase on their half rate payment.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said “the real winners are the biggest corporations who are to be given a new tax break worth billions in the form of the new ‘knowledge box’ 6.25% corporate tax rate”, and private developers who are to be assisted by NAMA to profit from the current housing crisis.”

Deputy Boyd Barrett said that the crisis in housing and health and growing economic inequality could only be addressed through much more radical increases in investment and spending on social housing, health, education and a fundamental shifting of the tax burden from the least well-off to the wealthiest ten per cent and the corporate sector.

Richard Boyd Barrett said: “The government’s bag of pre-election budget tricks will do nothing to solve the utterly disastrous situation in housing and in our hospitals or tackle the growing inequality in Irish society. The housing and hospitals crises are absolutely guaranteed to get worse because of government inaction in this budget and rampant inequality will continue to grow.

The €69 million extra announced for social housing is utterly derisory – equivalent to considerably less than 1000 extra social housing units. This against a background of the housing list going from 96,000 to 130,000 over the last couple of years and over 5000 people and 1,500 children living in emergency accommodation. The promised extra money will not even begin to keep pace with the rising homelessness crisis or the number of new applicants joining the lists.

Based on these measures and policies the housing and homelessness crisis will be even worse in a year’s time.

If we were serious about dealing with this crisis we would be declaring a national housing emergency, and putting at least an extra one billion euro into council housing and homeless services next year and immediately introducing rent controls. Enda Kenny gave the game away when he said the government’s new housing measures would not “interfere with the housing market.” That is code for saying no rent controls or any action that might upset the big landlords, property speculators or banks.

Equally, the extra money for the health service will barely meet the most conservative “stand-still” scenario because of growing demands on the service and will do nothing at all to reverse the devastating effects of axing €3 billion and 10,000 staff from the service over recent years. These measures are not even a sticking plaster for the disastrous situation in our hospitals; rather it is like wrapping a piece of tissue around a gaping wound.

Nor will this budget do anything to address the staggering increase in economic inequality that we have seen in recent years.

The few crumbs being thrown today to workers, pensioners and social welfare recipients are an insult after their incomes have been savaged over recent year by several multiples of this so-called “give-back.”

Three euros a week will make no difference to a pensioner whose basic pension has been frozen for four years but who now has to deal with bills for property tax and water charges.

For vast numbers of people on low incomes the combined effect of property tax, water charges and rent – all of which, will certainly rocket up in the next few years – will see them continue to struggle to pay their bills.

In this budget the government have thrown ordinary people back a few measly crumbs, while allowing a super-wealthy elite and corporate vultures to loot the entire bakery.

To address the dire housing and hospitals crisis, and seriously challenge poverty and inequality, this budget needed to radically increase spending and investment in social housing, health and education and decisively shift the tax burden from the less well-off onto the wealthiest ten per cent and the super-profits of the big corporates.

The real benefits of economic growth are not flowing into resource starved services or the incomes of ordinary people, they are continuing to flow into the coffers of a super-wealthy and corporate elite. There is no serious effort to address this inequality and unfairness in this budget.”