Tough Budget decisions can lay groundwork for recovery

Framing Budget 2011 was never going to be easy as public finances were so poor that the country has had to resort to international help from the EU and the IMF, Green Party Chairman and Finance spokesperson Dan Boyle said today. “In those circumstances hard choices were unavoidable. But the Green Party’s priorities in this Budget have been to protect key areas of expenditure to protect the most vulnerable and aid early recovery,” he said.

Senator Boyle said the key areas identified by his party were:

  • Education
  • Reducing political system costs
  • Support for homeless
  • Mental Health
  • Forestry
  • The arts

Meeting international obligations

“In all these areas we have either ensured no cut at all occurred, or, that cuts were less than those imposed elsewhere. In education we protected the pupil-teacher ratio; kept capitation reductions low; and ensured that a return to third level tuition fees did not happen,” Senator Boyle said. “We have also argued publicly and privately that important signals of example must be given to people who are themselves facing tough times. The costs of our political system needed to be reduced and today’s measures are an important step,” he said.

Senator Boyle welcomed ministerial pay cuts; tax and PRSI changes for senior officials and public representatives; the creation of a ministerial car pool and the non-replacement of a government jet. The Green Party Chairman pointed out that his party’s work was evident throughout the Budget 2011 documents. “We were pleased by inclusion of many tax reform measures recommended by the Commission on Taxation which was set up at our insistence,” he added. Senator Boyle said these included ending 25 tax reliefs and bringing a swifter end to property-based reliefs already identified for phasing out, and which continue to cost Irish taxpayers millions in lost revenue each year. He also welcomed moves to reform tax on private pensions, particularly a decision to tax high lump sum pay-offs. “Pension changes for higher civil servants and for those in public life are significant. They go at least some way in the direction needed to reduce unacceptably high costs,” Senator Boyle said.

Senator Boyle said that the Green Party regretted any reduction in welfare payments but had worked to protect those dependent on the state pensions and minimise other cuts. “The decision to increase the fuel allowance is directly linked to the Green Party’s role in Renewed Programme for Government negotiations little over a year ago,” he said. Along with education, an important theme of this Budget is the development of enterprise and incentive measures to create more employment. “I especially welcome the job incentive schemes for 15,000 additional places which will combine further training with identifiable needs in the community,” he continued. Senator Boyle welcomed incentives for retro-fitting of insulation in houses through extra investment and the creation of a new tax incentive. He said this remained a priority and would also create extra jobs. “In summary, the circumstances in which this Budget was drafted were far from ideal. But we believe that, by combining the making of necessary decisions and introducing a number of targeted initiatives, there is a cohesion to this Budget which can build upon our existing economic strengths and aid a faster and stronger recovery,” he concluded.