Wednesday marked the unveiling for the Budget 2013 in Ireland by Finance Minister Michael Noonan. A number of new measures were outlined in the new financial plan for the coming years.
The Irish Times reports on the most notable measures that were shared at the Dail on Wednesday.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan outlined taxation measures which are expected to generate €1.25 billion, and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin outlined expenditure cuts of €2.25 billion. Together, the measures aim to achieve an adjustment of €3.5 billion next year.
Minister Noonan, who was delivering his sixth austerity budget in five years, said Ireland was emerging from the worst of the financial crisis and that the efforts of the Irish people had helped in leading the State successfully through the bailout program. He said 160 conditions of the bailout had been fulfilled, and that 80 percent of funds available had now been drawn down.
Noonan described the the day of the Budget delivery as “a good day for taking stock of where we are.” He added that the State now had the basis of a renewed economy that will lead to greater employment.
Included in the Budget are a property tax, reduced child benefit payments, increased excise duties on cigarettes and alcohol, hikes to the student contribution charge and changes to the PRSI system.
Noonan explained that the property tax is to be levied at a rate of 0.18 per cent on properties worth up to €1 million and 0.25 per cent on properties valued at more than that.
Excise duty is to increase by 10 cent on pints of beer and cider and measures of spirits, and by €1 on a 750ml bottle of wine from midnight. The price of a pack of cigarettes is to go up by 10 cent from midnight and the price of a 50g pouch of tobacco is to rise by 50 cent.
Minister Howlin said the Government had decided that reducing the primary weekly rates of social welfare would have a detrimental impact on domestic demand. However, he said child benefit will decrease by €10 per month, saving €136 million.
Jobseekers benefit also took a hit - it will now only be available for nine months, rather than 12 months.
Howlin detailed how changes to the telephone element of the household benefits package would save €60 million, and the electricity allowance would save €20 million. Prescription charges for medical card holders are being tripled from €0.50 to €1.50.
Students will be digging deeper over the next few years as the €2,250 third level student contribution charge is to increase by €250 in each of the next three years.
Noonan announced the end of the weekly PRSI allowance for workers. The annual contribution from the self-employed will raise from €253 to €500. Income tax rates have been left unchanged.
A three-year corporation tax relief for start-up companies, a rebate on fuel for hauliers from next July and the development of a range of support funds by the National Pension Reserve Fund to provide equity, financing and restructuring options are measures being used to help support a new, healthier economy.
The Budget report was not met without opposition. Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath interrupted Noonan’s speech to complain that the budget documentation had not been distributed to the Opposition.
“It is unprecedented and a disgrace,” said McGrath
Minister Howlin concluded by saying that when he took office last year, he “could not be certain that we would make it through this crisis.” He now has a sense of relief.
“I no longer hold this fear,” he said. “What the people of Ireland have endured has been tough, almost without precedent in the developed world.”
“That we will come through it, and we will, is a significant shared achievement. In time, future generations will be proud that we, as a people, tackled this crisis head on. There remain difficult challenges ahead of us but Ireland and her people will prosper again.”