The soaring cost of living is huge issue, but budget will merely pour fuel on flames...

The Government is set to raise the carbon tax in the budget — just as global prices are also on the rise ahead of winter, writes John Dolan
The soaring cost of living is huge issue, but budget will merely pour fuel on flames...
Prices at the pump are set to go up further after Budget 2019. Picture Stock

THE other day, I forked out €26 for a bottle of house white wine in a moderately fancy restaurant.

It was my own fault — there were no prices on the menu and I didn’t ask the waiter.

I shrugged, paid up, and moved on, not wanting to let on to my dining companion that I was a miser.

Also last week, I was quoted an extra €100 a year for my home insurance.

I switched provider, shrugged, paid up, and moved on.

The week before that, it was time for my annual change of electricity provider, and the task of shopping around to find the cheapest car insurance renewal, which still meant paying out far more than the previous year.

The other day, too, I noticed as I filled up my car at the petrol pump that prices had crept up to levels not seen in a few years. I made a mental note to fill up the domestic kerosene before the prices got even steeper.

Each time, when confronted by these increases, I shrugged, paid up, and moved on.

Trouble is, I’m in danger of getting repetitive strain injury from all this shrugging... and I’m noticing that other people are feeling the same: Our cost of living has gotten totally out of hand.

What’s worse is that the Government have simply ignored this issue coming down the tracks, and in next week’s budget, they will actually take steps to make it worse.

Inflation is known as taxation without legislation, but our ministers appear determined to change that theory — and to actively legislate to make our increasingly high cost of living even more exorbitant.

Inflation is also known as the silent thief, a pickpocket that dips into your wallet and takes away your cash without you feeling a thing.

But could it become the issue that mugs this Government, just as it squares up for battle on other fronts — such as housing, health, and Brexit?

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On budget day on Tuesday, the one cast-iron certainty is that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will increase the Carbon Tax, meaning the cost of home heating and motoring will rise.

This is the tax by which the Government punishes us for failing to hit its own self-imposed targets on addressing climate change.

It will, of course, make not a jot of difference to the amount of pollution in the Irish atmosphere, but it will punish motorists, homeowners and people in rural areas in particular, without offering them any alternative means of transport or fuel.

But wait... it gets worse. Because the extra levy will come in just as the prices for oil at source are rising to higher levels.

The price of a barrel soared to its highest rate in four years this week, with experts predicting it will keep going up at least until Christmas. Something to do with US sanctions against Iran and supply issues, with which we needn’t concern ourselves.

The problem is, when that is combined with the extra carbon tax levy, this will result in a double whammy for fuel prices, just as we enter our darkest, coldest months.

And the Government is merely pouring fuel on the problem?

There is talk of slight cuts in taxes and increases in social welfare in the budget, but any scraps that we get from the table will be more than wiped out by the soaring fuel prices alone.

But it’s not just on fuel that the Government is actively raising prices.

Away from the budget, one of its big priorities in the Dáil in the coming months will be to see its flagship Public Health Alcohol Bill — set in motion when Leo Varadkar was Health Minister three years ago — made law.

This typical piece of nanny state legislation again contains an act of folly, in that it will introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.

It is expected that when the Bill becomes law, cans of beer in supermarkets will double in price and a bottle of wine will cost at least €7.50. This will adversely affect many of those on struggling incomes who enjoy an occasional tipple, while doing little to curb drink problems in wider society.

Again, the effect will be to drive up prices for consumers at a time when the cost of living is becoming a huge issue in households up and down the country.

There is something about this Government and sky-high costs — just look at how they have presided over the housing crisis, with prices of properties and rents soaring to unimaginable and unaffordable levels.

Their stock response appears to be to sit on their hands or, as shown here, even act to make the problem worse.

There are other worrying price rises coming down the line for Irish consumers too.

It’s well known that we stump up the highest mortgage rates in Europe thanks to our bailed-out and non-taxpaying banks.

Well, the interest rate the banks pay is set by the European Central Bank — and it’s widely predicted that it will start to raise that rate next year, piling more misery on Irish homeowners.

It’s well known that the interest rate is set according to the wishes of Germany and France, and that Ireland can go whistle if it wants to have a say.

Hence, interest rates were too low during our boom and only fuelled the Celtic Tiger at the worst possible time, while rate rises nest year will hurt those who have taken out large mortgages in recent years. It was interesting this week to hear Fianna Fáil propose opening the mortgage sector to other European outlets, with calls for credit unions and the post office to also join the market.

I’ve been calling for an end to the stranglehold of the Irish banks on the mortgage market on this page for years, and welcome anything that increases competition and allows us to switch easier to lower rates.

One of the anomalies of the high cost of living is that the Irish inflation rate remains stubbornly below 1%. How can that be so?

Meanwhile, a survey this week revealed that Dublin is the third most expensive capital city of all European capitals. No surprise there.

The study was based on the average prices for hotels, taxis, public transportation, food, beer, coffee, and museum tickets.

It showed that one night at a Dublin hotel costs as much as five in Skopje, Macedonia, the cheapest capital in Europe, and one dinner at a Dublin restaurant costs almost as much as five dinners in Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

Wait till the Government eases its VAT break for the hotel and restaurant sector next week, and see how that affects our prices!

It surely won’t be long before Dublin occupies the unenviable place of most expensive capital in Europe.

The study also showed that one beer in Dublin costs as much as six pints in Kiev.

And yet they don’t have minimum pricing on alcohol in Ukraine... funny that.

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