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Saturday 3 December 2016

This budget was not a giveaway... it was more like restorative justice

Analysis

The top rate of income tax is set to be cut by 1% to 40%.
The top rate of income tax is set to be cut by 1% to 40%.

Could we hit this "giveaway budget" accusation heavily on the head, please? We've lived through one budget after another for the past five years that has nicked our savings and abolished our discretionary spending.

Now that the Government is conceding just enough to let us stand upright again, a bunch of killjoys are talking about it being a giveaway.

The people of Ireland effectively said to the incoming Government at the last general election: "OK, Ireland has an economy that's as useful as a bag of dead worms right now. Just fix it. Tell us what we have to do and we'll do it."

What we had to do was give the State our money. Ultimately, that's what it was, whether you were in business or you were a public servant, they cut one chunk off your income through USC, a second chunk through income tax, the other chunk through pay cuts, still more through a levy.

To rescue the economy, they felled us. They hit us with a two-by-four, and that was after anybody with supposedly secure bank shares had seen them implode. We found ourselves out of jobs, companies folded and kids emigrated.

We tightened our belts until those belts nearly cut us in two.

And it worked. The job creation figures soared. International business media looked at us, and said "Go the Irish" in various languages. We got back our sovereignty. We became the fastest-growing economy in Europe. We won ourselves back a future.

But pats on the back just aren't enough. You know what most of us wanted out of this Budget? Right. Cold, hard cash. Not a giveaway, but a small amelioration of the situation we're in.

That's what Michael Noonan delivered yesterday, with his removal of 42,500 workers from the USC net, and his reductions in the percentage of income hit by USC at all earning levels.

That's also what he did with the abolition of the Pension Fund Levy. Brendan Howlin unveiled a childcare package which will make a massive difference to young parents and allow more of them get back into the workforce earlier.

Indeed, the totality of this Budget looks good for young parents, just as it looks good for small businesses, with the commercial motor tax radically reduced.

It punished smokers, of course, and, while we're all sorry for their trouble, the fact is that we'd like them to live long healthy lives and 50 cent onto the price of a pack will incentivise some of them to quit.

But you hear that sound in the background? Yep. That sound is the voice rabbiting on about increased smuggling.

Smuggling is a different issue. Frontloading the cost of fags was the right thing to do.

And that other sound in the background? Comment that this wasn't a creative Budget? So? It was a Budget, not a piece of performance art.

When we want creativity, we look to the Project or Smock Alley. When we want to face Christmas without dread and the New Year with hope, we look to the Budget.

And when we get a small reprieve from the misery of the last few years, we call it restorative justice, rather than a giveaway.

The Government may have thrown us a swim ring, this time around, in the Budget. But it was the citizens of Ireland who inflated it, and we deserve every bit of it.

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