Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Shane Ross: I wish to share time with Deputy Donnelly and we will take five minutes each.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: That is why we did the report.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: We cannot proceed on anecdotal evidence.
Deputy Sean Sherlock: Is that George Lee, the former Member?
Deputy Shane Ross: It is simply a measure of the fact that those in government cannot possibly take decisions without referring first to the Civil Service. Some of the people on the committee to which they referred this task were people by whom they have been captured. Two of these were top civil servants, who enjoy a sacred level of pay and working conditions, which the Government seems reluctant to attack. Another was the chief executive of the Pensions Board. Why, in the name of God, when the Government was looking into reform of the pensions industry, did it approach the chief executive of the Pensions Board to be an arbiter of the process, when he has been in charge of this rotten industry for so long?
Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: The Minister said he looked forward to opportunistic noise from this side of the House, but in his new way of doing politics he has chosen to leave the House straight away. Obviously he has had enough. I confess to not having the Minister's county council experience, which he seems to think necessary to understand macroeconomics, but I will do my best nonetheless.
I have only one message to get across to the Government in preparation for 2013. The regressive nature of last year's budget cannot be allowed to happen again. Analysis of last year's budget by the ESRI showed that there was a perfect correlation between household income and how much pain a household was required to take. Unfortunately, the correlation was as follows: the less money one had, the greater the share of the burden the Government asked one to carry. This has been independently verified by the ESRI. There is a perfect correlation between having less and being asked to pay more by the Government. Last year, a single parent with three children was asked to stump up €4,600 while an individual earning €200,000 was asked to stump up €100. This is what the Government did last year by choice. It made a lone parent with three children contribute 46 times more to correcting the deficit than a high earner earning €200,000.
Are we surprised to hear that one in ten children in our country are living in food poverty? This is one of the most developed nations on earth and a country that still has one of the highest average incomes in the world; the fact that it allows one in ten of its children to suffer from food poverty is nothing short of disgusting. Not only did last year's budget not alleviate this, it made it happen. I do not say this lightly or for effect, despite cheap jibes from senior Ministers. Every Labour Party and Fine Gael Cabinet member should feel a deep sense of shame for agreeing last year's budget.
I suggest two things to try to avoid such an occurrence this year. An impact analysis of the proposed measures should be carried out before they are announced. We need a poverty impact assessment. This is standard practice in other countries. We need to know how many more Irish children will be in food poverty after this budget. We need to know how many more families will fall below the poverty line. We need a gender impact analysis. When the vast majority of decision makers are men, policies tend to be unbalanced. Eighty-five percent of Members of Dáil Éireann are male and 88% of Cabinet members are male. The statement of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, on the budget earlier today is a perfect example. In his contribution on the labour market, the only sector of the economy he referred to was the construction sector. The vast majority of jobs which will, I hope, be created by the €17 billion capital expenditure programme will be for males. This is despite the live register figures showing that the greatest increase in unemployment has been suffered not by men but by women.
I propose that the Government consider more investment-led options. Investment capital can be raised from a range of sources. We have existing cash reserves which could be used. We can target taxes to raise some of the funds. We could have sensible expenditure savings - for example, a pause in increments, for which €170 million is factored into the budget this year.
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