SIPTU has condemned the failure of the Government to use Budget 2017 as an opportunity to repair the damage inflicted on the country by the economic collapse or take steps to prepare for future challenges. SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, said: “This Budget should have been about taking steps to repair the damage inflicted on our economy and society by the economic crash and the years of austerity which followed it. Unfortunately, the measures outlined by the Government today do not advance these aims and do nothing to seriously address the problems of societal decay we face. “Despite clear warnings from many in civil society, most notably the ICTU in its pre-budget submission that was endorsed by SIPTU, that there was no rational reason beyond mere political opportunism for cutting taxes, that is what has been done. “Rather than investing in increasing the quality of life for our society as a whole this Budget largely panders to a short term populist agenda. The Government has failed to heed the ICTU call for a €1 billion investment in new measures to tackle the housing emergency we face in this country. Neither is there the necessary levels of investment in key services, infrastructure and social necessitates such as childcare.” He added: “The Budget shows no evidence of serious planning for the challenges that lie ahead for our society. This is clear in the failure to act on the issue of older workers approaching mandatory retirement age who have been left high and dry by the abolition of the Transitional Pension. “SIPTU has repeatedly called for an increase in job seekers benefit at 65 as a temporary measure to deal with this problem. Such a provision would cost as little as €5 million a year to cover those forced to retire at 65 and just €25 million for all 65 year olds who are dependent on the Social Welfare system.” SIPTU Researcher, Marie Sherlock, said: “This Budget fails to deal with any of the essential challenges we face as a society and economy. On the crucial issue of the housing emergency we have policies that amount to more handouts for developers and landlords rather than a plan to tackle the roots of this problem, which is the supply of housing stock. “The increased investment announced for childcare is a positive but unfortunately the initiative includes no attempt to deal with the issue of low pay for workers in this sector.”