Mod­est pay­back to hard-pressed house­holds

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - BUDGET 2018 - Ed Carty

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said there would be “no fire­works” and no “big bo­nanza” in Bud­get 2018.

And Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pas­cal Dono­hoe stuck firmly to the script, with hard­pressed work­ing fam­i­lies and peo­ple on wel­fare set to gain a fiver a week in a bud­get of mod­est pay­back.

But while the the coun­try lurches from one set of record home­less­ness fig­ures to an­other, the Gov­ern­ment took a ham­mer­ing from op­po­nents who ac­cused min­is­ters of re­peat­ing com­mit­ments on so­cial hous­ing.

And with farm­ers and food busi­nesses reel­ing from the un­knowns of Brexit, € 300m of low- cost loans are to be di­rected at firms suf­fer­ing from cash-flow crises.

Mr Varad­kar set the scene for a €1.2bn pack­age of tax and spend­ing by herald­ing it as a chance to give back some­thing to the coun­try’s two mil­lion work­ers.

He said av­er­age fam­i­lies will ben­e­fit by € 500-€ 600 a year.

But within hours of the pro­nounce­ment, the gov­ern­ment’s PR spend came un­der fire as it emerged a new strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions unit, billed ear­lier this year as cost neu­tral, is set to be fi­nanced with €5m next year.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe told the Dáil the bud­get aimed to guard against three main threats to Ire­land — Brexit, the po­ten­tial im­pact of US trade tar­iffs, and var­i­ous geo-po­lit­i­cal threats.

“It will help re­duce the chances that fu­ture crises are home- grown and will mean that our econ­omy and pub­lic fi­nances are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to weather crises stem­ming from ex­ter­nal fac­tors be­yond our con­trol,” Mr Dono­hoe said.

“The list of po­ten­tial ex­ter­nal risks is lengthy.”

On Brexit-proof­ing the ini­tia­tives were lim­ited to busi­ness loans, fund­ing for farm­ers, hir­ing more en­ter­prise ex­perts, and ex­pand­ing Ire­land’s di­plo­matic foot­print in North and South Amer­ica, In­dia and Ja­pan and across Europe.

Un­veil­ing a war chest fund­ing pack­age, one big ticket item from Mr Dono­hoe was a move, from mid­night, tar­get­ing com­mer­cial prop­erty deals with a tripling of stamp duty to bring in €400m.

That will help cover the cost of €5 a week in­creases to most wel­fare pay­ments, in­clud­ing the dole and state pen­sions, but peo­ple will have to wait un­til the end of next March to reap any ben­e­fits.

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