English is one of the few languages that diligently employs the use of definite and indefinite articles (‘the’ and ‘a’). “Woman drinks beer from barrel” is a perfectly good sentence in most languages but it would only ever be used in English as an abbreviated magazine headline.

A budget is a plan of action designed to achieve quantifiable goals. A budget is a standard baseline for measuring financial performance. A budget is a way of coping with potential future negative outcomes. But the budget is a whole different matter altogether.

The budget is a political statement of possible intent. The budget is a poor way of trying to please everybody. The budget often ignores reality. The budget provides endless pages of media coverage. The budget never grapples seriously with the deficit.

The Minister for Finance examined total tax revenues; total current expenditure; the extent of the national debt and the difference between new revenues/expenditures. The focus, as always, for ordinary folk was on personal take-home pay. But this misses the point of a budget. The national debt at €203,000,000,000 is enormous and there is no hope of it ever being repaid. The budget should be a “plan of action designed to tackle the national debt”.

We are all aware that these big numbers are too enormous for us to properly consider. So let’s knock 6 zeros off all of the figures faced by Minister Noonan and see if it makes more sense from the perspective of one family.

Annual family income (Tax Revenues) = €42,800

Annual family spending (Current Spending) = €67,026

Existing credit card balance (National Debt) = €203,000

Next year’s credit card balance (Budget Increases) = €205,340

How would the head of your household react to this domestic dilemma? The family is living beyond its means and the credit card balance keeps getting larger and larger. Tinkering away at the fiddly bits won’t solve the problem. What’s required is a massive improvement in family income and a serious look at family spending. The debt is far too high but it can’t be dealt with until the day-to-day position is sorted.

Let’s extend the analogy by suggesting that the income earners in the family are unskilled – implying that their chances of securing substantially more income are slim. Also one of the children requires long-term healthcare and many of the household appliances need to be replaced. This is the conundrum facing Ireland!

In times of national emergency many countries enforce compulsory mobilisation to the armed forces; national guard or other state bodies. Ireland needs compulsory conscription today – not to fight a war – but to teach, educate and re-skill the population. Compulsory learning is the only way Ireland can deal with the technological changes that are making it more and more difficult for its citizens to move up the income curve.

A budget should make a difference. The budget will only provide hope when strategic educational initiatives are planned out and implemented. Is it definite or indefinite?