Giveaway budget is cynicism at its worst, but who's complaining?
Enda Kenny is a piece of work. He sounds breathless in every interview and yet he doesn't ever seem to want to say anything. He wants to look purposeful and interested and to be the popular cute 'hoor, but when it comes to real issues and real problems, he usually runs a mile.
Following a promising start to his career when he cried with pride in the classroom of his old school after he was announced as Taoiseach, Kenny made some great shapes, addressing serious issues and laid on the gravitas when needed in the Dáil. His government's record in attracting foreign companies to Ireland is hugely impressive, but the way in which he attracts them remains a worrying issue.
On social welfare reform Kenny is talking big, clearly this is an area which needs reform as people remain on benefits for far too long and this is never good for any society.
The 'Working Family Payment Plan' was revealed at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner on Thursday evening in a bid by the government to ensure that no one on social welfare payments will take home more money than they could earn at work. This shot in the arm to the unworking class is something which is badly needed. The number of long term unemployed in the country has been growing since the recession. The Taoiseach has said that in the next government, Fine Gael would be committed to rolling out a working-family payment to promote work over welfare. He said the payment would be targeted at low-income families and would supplement the income of the household, while at the same time looking to incentivise work, while removing many of the welfare traps.
The €750 million plus available to Finance Minister Michael Noonan for tax cuts in Tuesday's Budget will be directed towards changes to the universal social charge, primarily at the 7 per cent rate, to benefit people earning between €17,000-€70,000. A rate cut between 1.5-1.7 per cent to the 7 per cent rate is anticipated, while cuts to the lower rates are also under consideration.
Coming swiftly after the €100 water reservation grant bribe, there seems to be no end to Kenny & Co's generosity.
Meanwhile, struggling parents who are often crippled with the cost of childcare, which can run to over €1,400 per month for two children, are expected to get some relief. A major bribe drive to get the grey vote is anticipated as the much lamented axed Christmas bonus is due to return. Children's Allowance is being jacked up again and lower-paid workers are set to benefit from the 50 cent rise in the minimum wage. Have I missed anyone?
As a reporter I have been subjected to countless emails already from local TD's trumpeting multi million euro investments into everything from public infrastructure to sport grants. The recent €27 billion plan lumped all recent (and future) announcements into one neat package. No stone has been left unturned. Kenny and his ministers have reverted to old school governmental party type by sanctioning major projects in their own areas. This is the one reason why it may be a good thing if the political landscape gets shaken in the forthcoming election, although I have my doubts. An electorate which has been deprived of disposable income is about to get brainwashed with figures, which will ultimately make them feel richer, while dangling a carrot of further riches to come.