Responding to the details in Budget 2019, SIPTU economist, Marie Sherlock, described it as a scattergun approach designed to get over the hump of the next election. “Contrary to what the Government might claim, this was an exercise in populism over prudence.  A truly progressive and prudent budget would have pooled available resources to bring about real change,” Marie Sherlock said. “The lure of tax cuts does little for families to help improve access to childcare, healthcare and affordable housing, concerns which the Government and its Independent Alliance supporters claim to profess.”She said the increase in VAT on hotels and restaurants to 13.5% is long overdue and vindicates the long campaign carried out by Congress and SIPTU over several years to end this unfair concession to a profitable sector where many workers are underpaid and exploited.“The rise in the 9% VAT rate in the hospitality sector is long overdue and is to be welcomed. The increase in profits in the hotel and restaurant industry has far outpaced any increase in wages for employees. We believe that the vast majority of employers will be able to absorb the increase to 13.5%.”However, she said, putting over €1.5 billion into the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) for the so-called rainy-day fund – and an additional €500 million per year – ignores the immediate need for large scale capital investment in social and affordable housing.  This is also an unnecessary and costly duplication. “The lack of social and affordable housing is the single most urgent crisis facing working people and their families. It is raining already and placing available funds of more than €1.5 billion into the ISIF reflects a lack of urgency in relation to the housing crisis, notwithstanding the monies diverted to affordable housing over the next three years,” she said. “The overall targets for the delivery of social and affordable homes are disappointing while the increase in direct payments to landlords through the Housing Assistance Programme is another example of placing private ahead of public interests. Re-introducing 100% mortgage interest relief for individual landlords is a further waste of public monies.“At a time where the public finances are in the extraordinary position of being almost close to balance and where we have had corporation tax receipts greatly exceeding expectations, now is the time to build resilience within our public services to withstand future downturns. Instead, we have a government forced to use a €1 billion windfall to plug a gap that continues to arise in the health service each year with no medium-term budgetary planning to implement Sláintecare or to deliver affordable childcare supports for parents, educators and providers.”