Budget 2019 has been criticized as being an ‘election budget’ by Labour TD Joan Burton, after Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe’s speech on October 9th.
In an anticipation of the upcoming general election Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said “this is not an election Budget, it is not an election package… it is designed to deliver sustained economic growth”.
“If it looks like an election budget, if it sings like an election budget, if Leo’s choir cheers it like an election budget, well then it is an election budget,” said Burton.
A Rainy Day Fund of €1.5 billion was included in Donohoe’s speech with the intention of strengthening Ireland’s “ability to withstand economic shocks”. This was heavily criticized by the Union of Students in Ireland.
USI President Síona Cahill said “the rainy day is now” for Higher Education in Ireland.
“This is a landlord’s Budget and not a student’s Budget,” said Cahill. She said they didn’t see any significant increase towards purpose built student accommodation, and no measures in terms of accommodation that would alleviate the crisis.
While purpose built student accommodation was not mentioned in Budget 2019, Donohoe said that €2.3 billion will be allocated towards the housing programme in 2019.
The planned funding for the housing programme is set to facilitate around 6,000 affordable homes. A further €1.25 billion is being put towards 10,000 new social homes next year. Homelessness services were granted €30 million.
Mental health services also received an additional €84 million in funding. This 9 per cent increase will bring the total funding for mental health services to €1 billion.
Executive Director of SpunOut.ie Ian Power said: “It’s not just money that will solve the problem but also we need to rethink how we deliver our mental health services for children and young people.”
Hourly minimum wage is to be increased from €9.55 to €9.80. The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes will increase by 50c, bringing prices to approximately €12.70.
Social welfare payments are to increase by €5 per week from 2019. Donohoe said: “I am also pleased to be able to fully restore the 100% Christmas bonus payment to all social welfare recipients this year.”
The income threshold for GP Visit cards will be increased by €25 to accommodate an additional 100,000 people. The Irish Medical Organisation voiced concerns about the management of the additional patients in general practice given extensive cuts, according to the Irish Medical Times.
Carbon tax will face no immediate changes as part of Budget 2019, despite Varadkar’s claim that it would be “necessary as part of our climate change obligations” in August of 2018.
“To support the sector, and in particular disadvantaged farmers, I’m allocating an additional €57 million in current expenditure to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2019,” said Donohoe.
Donohoe also provided €60 million to the farming and food sectors that are expected to be affected by Brexit.
€60 million was allocated to the broader justice sector. Direct Provision allowance will see an increase of €21.60 to €38.80 for adults and to €29.80 for children.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was allocated €1.26 billion. In an attempt improve “rehabilitation works on regional and local roads” Donohoe allocated €40 million to the repair of pavements and potholes.
By: Cáit Caden and Emily Sheahan
Image Credit: Newstalk