Sugar tax:

Levy will help fund tax cuts for low- and mid­dle-in­come earn­ers, says Taoiseach Varad­kar says bed­sits and high-rises are part of re­sponse to hous­ing cri­sis

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SARAH BARDON Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said yes­ter­day that the Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to in­tro­duc­ing a sugar tax in Bud­get 2018:

The Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to in­tro­duc­ing a sugar tax in Bud­get 2018, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar has said.

Mr Varad­kar said there was a num­ber of rev­enue-rais­ing mea­sures be­ing ex­am­ined as part of the forth­com­ing bud­get, in­clud­ing a levy on sugar and sweet­ened drinks and an in­crease in ex­cise duty on cig­a­rettes.

Speak­ing at the end of a two-day Fine Gael gath­er­ing in Co Tip­per­ary be­fore the Dáil term, Mr Varad­kar also said the rein­tro­duc­tion of bed­sits and the con­struc­tion of high-rise apart­ment build­ings must form part of the Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the hous­ing cri­sis.

The Taoiseach asked coun­cil­lors across the coun­try to adopt a pos­i­tive view to­wards de­vel­op­ment and higher-rise build­ings.

“Maybe peo­ple might op­pose them in the years gone by, but given the need to build hous­ing, and quickly, we need to have a more pos­i­tive view of all types of de­vel­op­ment.”

This also re­quired the pos­si­ble rein­tro­duc­tion of bed­sits, the Taoiseach con­firmed.

“It’s some­thing that has to be con­sid­ered. There is a hous­ing cri­sis in Ire­land, and while you are in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion you ap­prove poli­cies to do things that you wouldn’t do if there was not a cri­sis.

“So it is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, but not in a way that would see any diminu­tion of ba­sic stan­dards re­lat­ing to fire or re­lat­ing to pub­lic safety. That will not hap­pen.”

On the bud­get, Mr Varad­kar said the Gov­ern­ment had lit­tle room for ma­noeu­vre, but had com­mit­ted to as­sist­ing the self-em­ployed and re­duc­ing taxes for low and mid­dle-in­come earn­ers.

Con­sid­er­a­tion

Mr Varad­kar has also pledged to in­crease the old age pen­sion by at least ¤5.

Asked how the Gov­ern­ment in­tended to pay for such mea­sures, Mr Varad­kar con­firmed there would be in­creases in tax­a­tion.

“I can’t ob­vi­ously go into specifics to­day, but it would be typ­i­cal enough for there to be an in­crease in cig­a­rettes, that’s one of the things un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“Also, I’m a long-time sup­porter of the sugar tax, and I want to see that in­tro­duced next year, but I’m not in a po­si­tion to get into de­tails.”

The bud­get, the forth­com­ing cap­i­tal plan and the na­tional plan­ning frame­work were dis­cussed.

Mr Varad­kar said Fianna Fáil would have in­flu­ence over this year’s bud­get but in­sisted the party would not have the right to veto any par­tic­u­lar an­nounce­ment. In the event it de­clined to vote in favour of fi­nan­cial mea­sures, an elec­tion would be called.

Mr Varad­kar said: “I’m de­ter­mined as I said to make this Gov­ern­ment work and also make it last. I do no­tice that other par­ties are mak­ing prepa­ra­tions; they are al­ready se­lect­ing can­di­dates. We haven’t done that yet, but I think it would be un­wise for any party not to pre­pare for a gen­eral elec­tion, and we will cer­tainly be do­ing that.”

He said the bud­get would stick within the pa­ram­e­ters of the agree­ment with Fianna Fáil.

Hous­ing wait­ing lists

On the hous­ing cri­sis, Mr Varad­kar said that while com­mit­ting to a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in so­cial hous­ing, the Gov­ern­ment also needed to of­fer as­sis­tance to those who were not on hous­ing wait­ing lists.

Point­ing to those liv­ing at home with par­ents or liv­ing in rented ac­com­mo­da­tion, the Taoiseach said the Gov­ern­ment had to work out a means to en­sure af­ford­abil­ity in the mar­ket.

This would “en­sure that peo­ple in their 20s and 30s who are work­ing and who are now rent­ing or liv­ing with their par­ents, ac­tu­ally have a chance to buy a home, that is go­ing to be a big part of what we do.”

The Taoiseach also fleshed out pro­pos­als to re-pur­pose the Na­tional As­set Man­age­ment Agency to be­come an agency for de­liv­er­ing hous­ing.

Mr Varad­kar said this was a Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive which was first pro­posed by for­mer min­is­ter for fi­nance Michael Noo­nan, and has been dis­cussed with Nama over a num­ber of months. A fi­nal Gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion would be taken within weeks, he added.

‘‘

There is a hous­ing cri­sis in Ire­land, and while you are in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion you ap­prove poli­cies to do things that you wouldn’t do if there was not a cri­sis

PHO­TO­GRAPH: BAR­BARA LIND­BERG

Fine Gael TDs, Se­na­tors, MEPs and Min­is­ters take a break from the party’s think-in at the Minella Ho­tel, Clon­mel, Co Tip­per­ary yes­ter­day

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