Budget 2012 'strikes right balance'
The Government has struck the right balance in protecting the vulnerable and taxing the wealthy with Budget 2012, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has suggested.
Mr Kenny commended the Budget, announced on Monday and Tuesday, to the Dail and described it as fair, balanced and focused on jobs.
"We have found ways to ensure a fair distribution of the burden of adjustment that does not put at risk our core objective of growing our way out of this debt crisis," said Mr Kenny.
"I believe with this Budget we have struck the right balance, not just for 2012, but in the decisions we have taken for the period to 2014."
He pointed out that income tax and the basic rate of child benefit were left untouched, while the Government also increased the Universal Social Charge (USC) threshold to 10,036 euro, meaning anyone earning less than that will be exempt from the tax.
"We have chosen instead to tax wealth rather than work," said Mr Kenny.
He said while spending cuts and tax hikes imposed by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Finance Minister Michael Noonan were regrettable, they were necessary to help Ireland's economy grow.
The Taoiseach reiterated the austerity Budget, in which the Government was forced to make a 3.8 billion euro adjustment to meet its EU/IMF deficit targets, was focused primarily on jobs.
"Getting Ireland back to work cannot be delivered in one Budget announcement but will continue to be the priority over the lifetime of this Government," he went on. "This priority on jobs is linked to the ultimate goal of rebuilding our economy and restoring faith in Ireland at both home and abroad."
But members of the Opposition have condemned the Budget, saying far from protecting the vulnerable, it targets them. Sinn Fein criticised cuts to child benefits for the third and subsequent children in families, while Fianna Fail condemned the Government's 2% hike in VAT and its plans to raise taxes on environmentally friendly cars.