Polling shows that Sinn Fein is on track to win the next general election, and the government may well consider a giveaway budget to secure a chance at re-election.
This approach is unlikely to cure any current economic woes for the government. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has predicted that Ireland will enter a technical recession in the coming year, with corporation tax receipts underperforming its expected levels, year-on-year.
The so-called ‘mood music’ is cautious, with Michael McGrath fielding his first budget as Minister for Finance amidst warnings on overheating the economy.
All that considered, what will the budget contain?
Simon Harris has reportedly pushed for a further one thousand euro decrease in student fees, doubling last year’s reduction.
It is also understood that a 25% increase in SUSI is on the table, however, there has been no sign of a definite increase so far.
This is in line with some USI demands for better treatment of students, however many universities and colleges are still charging students rents considered to be exorbitant and out-of-touch, with rooms in the brand-new Dunlin Village costing from €816 up to €962 a month in University of Galway, almost €200 more than the top rate of SUSI grant available.
There is little hope for a double payment of SUSI at Christmas this year, as there has been no call for it by USI and no pre-budget leaks form the Department of Higher Education have been made suggesting so.
Cost of Living
Doubt also hangs over the amount of electricity credits that will be made available to households this year.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD has stated that households will need help paying their bills, it is unclear if support will be at the same level as before, as the economy risks overheating.
Both McGrath and Donohue are eager to avoid worsening inflation, however they are ultimately at the direction of the triarchy of Varadkar, Martin, and Ryan in any major budgetary considerations.
Following incendiary remarks by Leo Varadkar about those on benefits in which he referenced Benefits Street, an infamous UK television show, there has been an effort by minister Heather Humphreys to secure the once off payments of double child benefit and pensions at Christmas.
It is likely she will succeed, as the Fine Gael parliamentary party try to distance themselves from the benefits-bashing ahead of the next general election.
Proposals to create a means-tested second tier for disability allowance will likely die before they reach cabinet, as government backbenchers have rebuked the idea sternly.
The overspend in the HSE is estimated at over one billion euro for this year, despite the HSE warning the government that it may not be able to reach the desired level of service provision without some form of a bailout.
Recent scandals at the Temple Street children’s hospital will certainly impact any decision to make HSE cuts.
Eamon Ryan will likely pursue an expansion of services rather than any further fee reductions.
There has been calls from the USI to increase the eligibility for people to avail of the young adult leap card, as at present it ceases to work on the 24th birthday of the holder.
The USI, as well as the University of Galway Students’ Union have called for the abolition of charges for students, however it is unlikely that such a call will be heeded.
Giving away or taking the p*ss?
The government have a fine line to walk this year, they must help those who need it the most while maintaining a significant backup should the predicted technical recession effect our corporation tax receipts further.
However, disappointing as this budget may be to the masses, it is not insignificant as the total package may exceed ten billion euros, not the biggest but not the smallest either.
Though, the existence of a sixty-five billion euro ‘rainy day’ fund has shown that government are more concerned about with mitigating future failures than they are concerned with fixing the current failures.
It is raining now, and it is unlikely to let up any time soon.