I welcome the Minister. This is not particularly a motion but simply a question for the Minister that is not for today or tomorrow but is long-term in nature.
We all acknowledge and recognise the very significant funding is brought into the State's coffers by the universal social charge. Reflecting back on its introduction, we are also aware that it replaced the health and income levies. The USC was also an emergency tax and probably could have been appropriately called a national recovery levy or tax. Such was the state of the nation's finances at the time of its introduction that most reasonable political groupings and parties, and everybody interested in the future of the country, while not welcoming the introduction of the tax or levy could appreciate the necessity for same.
I hope, through the Minister's stewardship and internal and external factors, the state of the nation's finances are slowly but surely beginning to improve. We hope, with projected growth patterns and economic patterns into the future, that the State's coffers will not just improve but will have a more stable and sustainable future. With that in my mind, my question for him is three-pronged. Will he look at the universal social charge anew? Will he recognise, at least, that some of the circumstances which required its introduction may no longer apply and, thus, show a little flexibility in that regard? Does he hope to remove the levy in the medium to long term?
My next question is not part of my official Adjournment motion but one that I formulated as I was talking and thinking. We have income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. When looking at the long-term future of pensions and social welfare in this country one realises that we will, in the very near future, reach a situation where every citizen of the State will have some degree of social insurance cover. That means every citizen will be paying into a social insurance fund. From the perspectives of administrative simplicity, a case could be made to further streamline all the charges, levies and taxes paid by every tax paying citizen of the State and to roll them into one, rather than have between two and four charges at present. My question is not for today or tomorrow but for the future.
I would like to hear the Minister's views on two things. The first is the long-term possibility of reshaping or, hopefully, removing the universal social charge. I apologise for not tabling my second question as part of my formal motion. It relates to the various layers of taxes and levies in this country. The Taoiseach, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and the Minister for Finance have made the very obvious and important comment that we must be in a position to present ourselves internationally as an economy with a tax that is fair, as low as possible and well administered. The fewer levies, charges and taxes which apply in that regard the better and the more streamlining we can put in place, the better as well. I thank the Minister for listening to me and look forward to hearing his observations.