A budget for everyone and no-one
So who won Budget 2022?
As usual, nobody did. The Government had briefed that it would not be a giveaway budget and they would act in a restrained and responsible manner.
Well they kind of did, but with an eye on the next election the Government needed to try and win back some of the voters that Sinn Féin have been winning over. According to recent opinion polls, they are now comfortably the biggest political party in Ireland.
So the Government gave a little bit to everyone, but did very little that will make a huge change to people’s lives.
With inflation rising again and fuel costs rising rapidly, tokenistic measures like an extra €5 for old age pensioners may not even help people to keep ahead of inflation.
I’m not sure any budget has winners, but there are always losers. An additional €24m was allocated to mental health for the development of new services and €13m to support the provision of existing levels of service announced in Budget 2022.
This seems a pretty paltry amount given there is likely to be huge additional pressures due to the pandemic but Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health, welcomed the increase. Fiona Coyle, CEO of Mental Health Reform, said: “The Government’s commitment of €37m in Budget 2022 recognises the need to address the ongoing mental health impact of the pandemic. While the investment falls short of the €85m we believe will be needed in 2022, we recognise that it is a positive step.”
€22.2 billion will be spent on health in 2022, with health taking a greater share of the overall budget pie than ever before. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organistation (INMO) had a guarded response.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “The continued increase in health spending is welcome, however we need to ensure that this money is spent in an efficient manner. We need to ensure that we are getting staffing right, building up capacity and moving to a universal care model.”
Director of the Small Firms Association Sven Spollen Behrens described the fiscal package as “underwhelming for small businesses”. He was “disappointed to see that there has not been a greater effort to reduce the cost of doing business”, although he welcomed the extension of the commercial rates waiver and the retention of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) until April.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland described the Budget as disastrous for hospitality and retail. CEO Adrian Cummins warned that the hospitality industry faces a challenging five years. “This budget is a disaster for our members, restaurants, cafes and gastropubs, a vital element of our tourism offering. The VAT rate ending, and wage supports tapering off will be the death nail in the coffin of many hospitality businesses this winter.”
Time will tell if his anger is justified but let’s hope not.