I suppose it is "happy budget day" to all. The amount of €11 billion is nothing to be sniffed at and there are certainly provisions in the budget that are welcome and overdue. I will say once again that the drip-feeding of budget information in the weeks leading up to the date is unhelpful in the extreme. It makes a farce of the system and the procedures we have in place for having budgets decided upon and finalised, with members of the Cabinet bouncing prospective measures off public opinion and the media farming these leaks for free clicks. The move to provide publicly-funded schoolbooks at primary school level is to be welcomed as is the decision to expand GP and medical cards. These measures rightfully reflect the attitude we should have towards education and healthcare, one of making them both accessible while remaining sustainable. Unfortunately, other measures are little more than drops in the ocean. Housing charity Threshold has stated the tax relief for renters is worth only seven days of rent in Dublin. It is a massive cost on the Exchequer for what amounts to very little change on the ground. It is the worst of both worlds.
There will be €600 in energy credits over three instalments. Citizens pay the Government their taxes, the Government hands some of this back through energy bills and the money goes into the pocket of the energy companies. Surely this is inflating a burst tyre. Why not put a €600 solar panel on every home instead? Let people make some of their own electricity and lessen reliance on these companies now charging unprecedented energy prices. Better yet, take all those €600 payments and investigate having a nuclear power plant, which would achieve energy security, end reliance on Russia, slash household energy costs and give us clean sustainable power. We are putting a 10% levy on building materials in the middle of a housing crisis. These extra costs will be passed on to prospective homeowners, further freezing out young and first-time buyers from home ownership when it comes to new builds.
There seems to be a touch of a circus and being out of touch about the budget, deflecting from systemic failings, putting money into people's pockets and having something for everybody in the audience. At this stage, I am not sure that what the Government spends or gives people will make much difference. People are ready for change. Unfortunately in Ireland the only option for change seems to be Sinn Féin. Meanwhile centre-right parties are topping polls and winning elections throughout the Continent. We tend to be a bit slow when it comes to political change but I hope it is a sign of things to come and that some young political leaders will step up to the challenge and return common sense and traditional values to the fore.