Budget 2012 is fairest possible for a country which is overspending by €18 billion’
Budget 2012 is the fairest possible for a country which is overspending by €18 billion for this year alone. The guiding principles, as outlined by Ministers Howlin and Noonan, are fairness, jobs and reform and as such no area of public spending could remain untouched.
This budget is undeniably tough and will affect everyone in Galway and nationally but the reforms contained within are vital if we are to repair our economy and protect our society.
Naturally some in society would have preferred deep cuts in social welfare while others would have liked to have seen higher taxes or significant cuts in public service pay and pensions. The challenge of government is to consider the competing interests in society and arrive at a compromise. I believe the Fine Gael – Labour Government has achieved this.
I believe keenly in the safety net provided by the Social Welfare system, a system on which all citizens will, at some point their lives, depend on. Next year we will spend €20.5 billion on Social Welfare supports and with this budget I am relieved that the primary rates of social welfare payments have been protected and universal child benefit payment will continue at a standard rate.
I am also encouraged to see that the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn has worked to ensure that there will be no cuts in the numbers of Resource Teachers and Special Needs Assistants at both primary and secondary level.
Although health spending has had to be reviewed downwards by approximately €500 million, 2012 will see €13.6 billion being spent on health services in Ireland. Crucially, €50 million has been ring-fenced to meet government commitments on mental healthcare and access to GP care for those on the long-term illness scheme.
On the Revenue side, the confirmation that there will be no income tax increases, no reduction in tax credits and no narrowing of tax bands for this coming as well as no further VAT increase during the lifetime of this government is very welcome news to workers grappling with the effects of the recession. Furthermore, mortgage interest relief for first time buyers will be 25% and 15% for all other buyers, measures which will help a property market return to a stable and sustainable level.
A key goal of this budget and government has been to protect the most vulnerable and at risk in society. Minister Noonan and the government have achieved this with the rise from €4,004 to €10,036 in the exemption level for the Universal Social Charge. This measure alone will benefit 330,000 workers on lower incomes.
Moreover, a 5% increase in Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisition Tax along with a 3% rise in DIRT is proof that those most able to contribute towards our economic recovery will do so.
This budget is unquestionably a difficult one and no such budget could pass without criticism. However, there was not a credible, workable alternative put forward by any opposition group in Dáil Éireann.
Budget 2012 will be difficult for all as we try to maintain public services while closing the gap between our State income and spending. We are on the correct path and to succeed everyone – young and old, public sector and private sector, urban and rural-based must work together.