BUDGET 2019 is a budget for housing, healthcare and Brexit, according to Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
Speaking to the Evening Echo today, he said the budget will protect Ireland’s economy from any potential fallout from Brexit, while also providing funding across a range of vulnerable sectors.
Budget 2019 represents the first time in a decade that the country is not running a deficit, a “massive statement,” Mr Coveney said.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will reveal his election budget and announce up to €1.5bn in new spending.
A €300m Affordable Housing Scheme, an increase in Housing Assistance Payments and social housing policies, and measures to tackle homelessness are expected to be announced as well as a €2bn increase in the health budget.
An extra 100,000 free GP cards will be provided as well as €55m for mental health funding and €75m for the National Treatment Purchase Fund waiting list reform system.
Minister Donohoe has also pledged to increase the minimum wage by 20c. While the government has largely rowed back on measures to tackle diesel and coal, the Vehicle Registration Tax on diesel cars is set to rise by 1%.
The VAT in the hospitality sector will return to 13.5%, a return which will free up funding for other at-risk sectors, according to the Tánaiste.
“During the recession, the hospitality sector got special treatment to allow it to grow and prosper and it has,” he said.
“Now, those emergency measures are needed in other sectors such as housing and healthcare.”
Mr Coveney added that while the Government have not completely addressed housing, healthcare and some environmental issues, he said that the strength of the economy will allow for measures across these sectors.
The Budget will also make money available for the recruitment of 100 therapists across the country, and Cork TD Michael McGrath (FF) said the Cork and Kerry region should be a priority.
“Cork and Kerry currently make up 40% of the national waiting list figures in this area so it should certainly be a priority.”
The new Affordable Housing Scheme will allow first-time buyers to purchase houses at up to €50,000 less than local authority building costs.
“This is a dramatic change which will finally offer hope to thousands who are currently locked out of the housing market,” said Mr McGrath.