Modest payback to hard-pressed households
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.