Brian Lenihan announced welfare cuts of 760 million in yesterday’s budget. This is referred to as ‘making hard decisions’ in the ‘national interest’.  It’s hardly a ‘hard decision’ to attack the most vulnerable and least powerful individuals in society. On the contrary, those individuals tend to have more restricted access to sources of private power, resources  and political interests than more privileged counterparts. Moreover, the percentage cuts outlined  are greater than they appear because they do not take into account the fact that the Christmas bonus has already been removed for welfare recipients; effectively a c. 2% cut has already been implemented without yesterday’s announcements.

Government Expenditure 2009/10

Government Expenditure 2009/10

What’s most striking though from the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for 2010 is the projected increases in spending in a huge number of government departments (see image). The government expects an increase in net voted current expenditure of c. 3 billion between 2009 and 2010. While the increase can be accounted for by an increase in expenditure within the Department of Social and Family affairs (largely, one presumes, due to projected  expenditure increases on unemployment benefit), one wonders whether more ‘belt-tightening’ could have been achieved in other government departments and whether welfare cuts, in particular, could have been avoided? Of course, other real alternatives exist but even within the narrow ideological framework adopted by government, perhaps the misery being heaped on the most vulnerable could have been avoided.

Enda Murphy

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