Bíonn orm, im' Aire Airgeadais dom, bille airgeadais do chur os cóir an Oireachtais gach bliain chun éifeacht do thabhairt, in aghaidh na bliana airgeadais ar fad, do na rúin lena nglacann an Dáil tar éis na Cáinfhaisnéise. Toisc téarmaí an Achta um Bhailiú Shealadach Cánach, 1927, ní bhíonn éifeacht reachtúil ach ar feadh tréimhse teoranta ag na rúin a ritheann Coiste Airgeadais Dáil Éireann ag forcur cánacha no á n-athnuachaint no á n-athrú no ag cur deire leo. Bíonn éifeacht reachtúil fén Acht ag Rúin Airgeadais na bliana go ceann tréimhse cheithre mhí ón dáta luaidhtear ins na rúin chun na rúin do dhul in éifeacht no, mara mbíonn aon dáta den tsórt san luaidhte ionta, ó am rithte na rún ag an gCoiste Airgeadais.
Ós rud é nár gearradh aón chánacha nua le Cáinfhaisnéis na bliana so ní déantar leis an mBille seo ach na cánacha atá ann cheana do choimeád in éifeacht.
Mar is eol do na Seanadóirí go léir, níor deineadh aon athruithe ar na cánacha coitianta i mbliana ach chó beag. Nuair a bhí na figiúirí go léir bailithe le chéile agam, bhí sé soiléir ná béadh ar mo chumas an caiteachas go léir fháil tré chánacha gan ualach ró-throm do chur ar lucht íoctha cánach. Mar sin do shocruíos ar an méid sa mbreis a bhí uaim d'fháil ar iasacht mar a dheineas anuiridh.
Mar sin níl an oiread céanna cúise conspóide ann, tá súil agam, agus do bhíodh tamall de bhlianta ó shoin.
When I addressed the Seanad on the Second Stage of the Finance Bill, 1942, I emphasised that the revenue estimates for the financial year 1942-43 were framed in the hope that the nation would remain at peace and that the economic and financial structure of the State would not be unduly disturbed during the year. We are fortunate indeed that this assumption has been realised. We have been preserved up to the present from major disaster in spite of the constantly increasing strain to which the economic fabric has been subjected. The loss of so many of the sources of vital supplies from which we drew in the past has made us more dependent on our own initiative and native effort, which have responded to the call with varying degrees of success. In the sphere of shipping, for example, we have done not at all badly. Our shipping enterprises—old as well as new—have helped to supplement deficiencies in stocks of essential foodstuffs and to provide both industry and agriculture with a fair measure of much-needed materials and equipment. These shipping operations have also been of benefit to the Exchequer, for without the substantial quantities of dutiable commodities such as tobacco which they have made available to us it is certain that tax revenue in 1942-43, and especially customs receipts, would have fallen far short of the sums which were actually realised, with resultant injury to the services maintained by the State, and to our general economic well-being.
It will be gathered from the foregoing remarks that economic activity, including agricultural production, in the year just closed was fairly satisfactory on the whole, and this state of affairs was reflected in the continued buoyancy of the revenue during the period. With the exception of excise, which showed a slight decline, the main heads of tax revenue exceeded the sums estimated by varying amounts. Thus, customs at £10,660,000 was £395,000 above the estimate. It is significant, however, that but for the increased yields from tobacco and, to a more modest degree, from sugar, wines, spirits and clothing, customs revenue would have fallen below the estimate. The combined customs and excise yield from tobacco, beer and spirits was £13,976,000 or 42.7 per cent. of our total tax revenue, excluding motor vehicle duties. Income-tax (including surtax and supertax) and corporation profits tax yielded £10,080,000 and £2,760,000, respectively, as against estimated receipts of £9,826,000 and £2,420,000. Together these two taxes provided £12,840,000 or 39.2 per cent. of the tax revenue, again excluding motor vehicle duties which, incidentally, also provided a small but welcome surplus, being £31,000 in excess of the estimate of £600,000.
The total tax and non-tax revenue in 1942-43 was £39,728,000 or £1,363,000 in excess of the estimate. With expenditure at £43,046,000, which was £1,224,000 short of what was anticipated, the close of the year revealed an actual deficit of £2,145,000 as against an expected deficit of £4,558,000.
Despite the savings in expenditure mentioned, Exchequer outgoings still continue to mount at a disturbing rate. While emergency conditions have inevitably tended to curtail the normal activities of Government Departments in many directions they have in others given rise to heavy and continuing demands upon the Exchequer, not only for the expansion of services such as the Defence Forces and the preparation of extensive schemes of evacuation and air-raid precautions generally, but also for the making of provisions by the State for allowances in cash or in kind or by way of subsidy to meet the increased cost of living. The requirements of agriculture also involve very substantial expenditure in connection with the importation of the necessary raw materials for the manufacture of fertilisers.
The largest single item of emergency conditions in 1942-43 was the Army and associated defence services in respect of which £8,395,000 was issued as compared with £8,155,000 in the preceding year. I estimate that the special emergency provisions which we have had to make in respect of military preparedness and on the social and economic fronts are costing us not less than £12,000,000 annually. While I, as Minister for Finance, derive some comfort from the hope that, with the end of the emergency, the Exchequer will be relieved almost entirely of this heavy burden, any optimism engendered thereby is tempered by the reflection that the post-war era will certainly bring its own particular problems of reconstruction depending to a large measure for their solution on the initiative and financial assistance of the State. Senators will have noted the ever-increasing clamour for Government intervention in fields of human activity which hitherto have been regarded as the field of private endeavour.
Our financial prospects in the post-war world will not, I fear, be too rosy, for the health of the Exchequer depends to a large extent on the general level of economic activity, especially in agriculture. We rely almost wholly on agricultural exports to finance industry and after the war the latter will be in dire need of reconstruction and re-equipment in order to regain and improve on former standards of production. Our exportable surplus of agricultural goods will, however, have to meet the severest competition from countries suffering from post-war depreciation of the standards of living and of wages. The possibility must also be reckoned with that currency may depreciate in competitor countries which may also by inflation or other such means have got rid of the debts piled up in wartime, thus reducing taxation for the service of debt and giving their producers an additional advantage over us. Agricultural countries desperately in need of imports for reconstruction purposes will be intent on pressing for sale anything which they have to offer.
It is partly so as not to hinder our chances of competing in such conditions as I have mentioned and partly because the present rates of taxation are already dangerously high that this year's Finance Bill provides for no additional imposts of substance. Further increases would, I believe, serve only to intensify unemployment by destroying economic incentive, by adding to costs of production and by reducing efficiency and competitive capacity.
Allowing for the minor alterations provided for in the Bill in income-tax, corporation profits tax and entertainments duty, the net yield of tax and non-tax revenue in 1943-44 is estimated at £41,582,000. Expenditure, after making the necessary adjustment in respect of capital and abnormal items, is put down at £45,137,000, leaving an uncovered deficit of £3,555,000 which, taking a leaf out of last year's book, I propose to meet by borrowing. Further borrowing will, of course, only serve to increase our national indebtedness, but that is the common lot of other Continental countries who have elected to follow the path of neutrality. They also feel acutely the economic and financial strain of maintaining agricultural and industrial production in face of trading difficulties, mobilisation of man power and large-scale expenditure on costly armaments and fortifications. That strain is reflected in the Budgets of the countries concerned where, unlike ours, declining revenues are a usual experience. The gap between revenue and expenditure widens and, to bridge it, they are forced to rely on borrowing to an increasing extent.
The financial disposition which I have thus outlined, entailing a deficit of more than £3,500,000 is, in a sense, even less favourable than it may seem at first sight because there is no certainty that the premises on which our suppositions have been built will be fulfilled. The premises are, as in previous Budgets, that, despite the extension of the war, no major economic misfortune will overtake the country; that some supplies from abroad of the various important commodities of which we are in need will reach us and that with the co-operation of home producers of food and materials we will be able to carry on with a comparative degree of comfort. These are the hopes that underlie the revenue side of the national accounts, and as our optimism in the past has been justified, so I trust it may be in the future.
I have not thought it necessary to burden Senators with detailed accounts of the national finances for 1942-3 and for the current year, as these will no doubt have already come to their notice following the Budget Statement which I made a fortnight ago in Dáil Eireann and through the various Papers dealing with the matter which have been presented to Parliament. With the foregoing remarks, describing broadly the basis of the Finance Bill of 1943, I confidently commend the Bill to the favourable consideration of Senators on this, its Second Reading.