Budget deficit is worst in EU -- at five times the limit
IRELAND had the highest budget deficit in the EU last year at 14.4pc of annual output, new figures reveal.
The figure is 0.1pc up on estimates the Government handed the European Commission earlier this year, and is almost five times the EU's limit.
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance says the rise was due to a "standard revision" by the Central Statistics Office.
Britain had the second-largest budget shortfall at 11.4pc of GDP, trailed by Spain at 11.1pc and Latvia at 10.2pc, according to figures released by Eurostat, the bloc's statistics agency, on Friday.
Luxembourg's public finances were the healthiest in the EU in 2009, when the budget shortfall in the grand duchy was just 0.7pc of GDP.
The estimates bring to 24 the number of countries currently in breach of the bloc's 3pc of GDP deficit limit.
The Commission published legislation last month that would bring immediate fines to bear on countries that don't reduce spending and borrowing quickly enough.
Ireland fared better in the debt stakes last year, with government borrowing measuring 65.5pc of GDP -- although this is still in breach of the EU's 60pc limit.
Italy borrowed the most in relative terms, outstripping annual output with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 116pc.
Belgium, Hungary and France also trumped Ireland in the borrowing stakes, posting debt-to-GDP ratios of 96.2pc, 78.4pc and 78.1pc respectively.
Estonia is the least indebted European country, with borrowing totalling only 7.2pc of GDP for 2009.
The figures don't include results for Greece, which will be available by mid-Novem- ber and which, according to Commission officials, will be higher than had been originally forecast.