BUDGET 2021 If you like a cigarette or drive an ageing car, the Budget’s grim, unequivocal message is: There’s no smoke without ire
"Regardless of whether the fumes are inhaled into your lungs or exhaled from your car's exhaust pipe or the chimney of your house, what is clear is that they are going to burn a hole in your pocket," writes Roy Curtis
IF you like a cigarette or drive an ageing car, the Budget’s grim, unequivocal message is: There’s no smoke without ire.
Regardless of whether the fumes are inhaled into your lungs or exhaled from your car's exhaust pipe or the chimney of your house, what is clear is that they are going to burn a hole in your pocket.
And leave your finances badly charred and temper smouldering.
Truly, it was the first joint FF/FG (Feck Fags/Flog Gas-guzzlers) budget.
A 50-cent excess duty hike on a packet of cigarettes will cost a 20-a-day smoker an additional €182.50-per-year.
Even a more modest ten-a-day consumer will now face a total annual charge of €2,555 to feed their increasingly frowned upon habit.
Sharp climbs in the cost of petrol and diesel will discriminate against those on lower incomes who cannot afford to upgrade to expensive electrical cars.
Penal motor tax on ageing vehicles will further penalise those who do not have the luxury of making greener choices.
The influence of Eamon Ryan and his party is obvious in a carbon-tax increase of €7.50 per tonne which will result in hikes in the price of coal and briquettes.
It will send a literal and figurative shiver down the spines of many – and quickly swallow up modest weekly increases in the living alone (€5) and fuel (€3.50) allowances.
Inevitably, in these unprecedented times, Budget 2021 was dominated by Covid-19 and Brexit emergency measures along with a heavy concentration on climate-change.
Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath were uniformed in different shades of blue – as was their message.
Ireland had faced “numerous challenges since independence, but never one like Covid-19…an invisible enemy,” warned Donohoe, quoting eyewatering unemployment and borrowing figures utterly unimaginable a year ago.
“There is no doubt the weeks and months ahead will be difficult,” intoned his alter-ego, McGrath.
Essentially, Donohoe and McGrath are like two down-on-their-luck punters tapping the credit union, the local loan shark and every available relative.
Except rather than a few quid, they are blagging a few billion.
The most expensive budget in the history of the State will be financed by record-shattering borrowing – money every taxpayer must ultimately repay.
In other times the downbeat message might have driven the Finance Minister’s audience to the pub (where the price of the pint remains unchanged), but with most are either shuttered or restricted to outdoor service, even Uncle Arthur's respite is largely unavailable.
Donohoe’s goal was “to recover quickly and prevent a recession turning into a long depression”.
For those who have suffered economic devastation, the search was for small chinks of light amid the debris.
Nine out of ten relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will receive double money as a Christmas bonus in the first week of December.
As previously outlined, the plan to increase the qualifying age for the State Pension from 66 to 67 has been put on hold.
Supports of up to €5,000-per-week for businesses (though, in reality, it will be substantially less for almost all) and reductions in VAT have been vouched to assist the battered pub, hospitality and tourism sectors.
Announcement after announcement amounted to an attempt to send out a fleet of life-raft to save a drowning nation from the treacherous, pathogen-infested economic seas whipped up by Covid.
McGrath concluded his address by quoting John F Kennedy’s words to the Irish parliament in 1963.
“It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination that is needed more than ever today.”
McGrath declined to add that 147 days after that upbeat rallying call, JFK lay dead in a trauma room in Parkland Memorial Hospital.
The earnest hope is that Ireland is not facing such an existential calamity.
Otherwise, even the non-smokers amongst us - ignoring the 50 cent increase - might feel inclined to request a last cigarette before we are led to the economic gallows.