An “unprecedented” Irish budget unveiled

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An “unprecedented” Irish budget unveiled

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has unveiled a budget "unprecedented in size and scale" to address the challenges of Covid-19 and a Brexit trade deal.

"From the ashes of the pandemic, together we will build a stronger and more resilient Ireland," he told Dáil (lower house of the Irish parliament).

The minister said unemployment is expected to be around 10,25% next year.

There would be a deficit budgetary € 21,5 billion (£ 19,5 billion) this year, he added.

The Republic of Ireland recorded a budget surplus last year, but Mr Donohoe expects the deficit to be € 20,5 billion next year.

This would mean a national debt of 219 billion euros or 108% of the national wealth.

However, he said his budget would provide "more housing, improved health care and a special national response to climate change."

Before the budget is presented, the government of coalition tripartite said his figures were based on the assumption that there would be no EU-UK trade deal and against the continued uncertainty regarding the economic implications of Covid-19 .

The Minister of Finance has pledged 8,5 billion euros for public services hampered by Covid-19 and a stimulus fund of 3,4 billion euros.

Mr Donohoe stated that due to the problems that are faced lhe hotel and tourism sectors, VAT for them would be reduced to 9% against 13,5% from November 1 to December 2021.

'Lack of ambition'

He told the Dáil that there would be no big changes to the income tax, but that the carbon tax would increase affecting the price of fuel.

The cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes would increase by 50% to € 14.

The minister said he wanted to end on a note of hope and confidence, and quoted Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney as saying that "if we can winter this one, we can summer anywhere" .

The Taoiseach County Shared Island Unit will oversee a budget of € 500 million over the next five years to improve north-south cooperation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the funding as "essential to the government's commitment to harness the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement".

“It also paves the way for investment in new initiatives across the island in areas such as research, health, education and the environment,” he said.

Sinn Fein's finance spokesman called the budget "indecisive, too slow to act and without ambition".

Pearse Doherty said the government had failed to provide certainty to workers at risk of falling off the edge of the cliff or to hospitals at risk of not being able to cope with Covid-19 rates.

He told Dáil that € 6 billion had not been allocated because the tripartite coalition did not know what to do with the money.

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