Friday 20 October 2017

Noonan vows 'easier' Budget if voters back fiscal treaty

Barry Duggan and Michael Brennan

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has promised an "easier" Budget if there is a Yes vote on the fiscal treaty.

But he refused to say exactly how people would benefit as he dangled the carrot to voters on the campaign trail yesterday.

He said that the Budget would be "a bit easier -- on a Yes vote -- than last year".

However, the minister refused to be specific. "Sure we can't get into the detail of the Budget at this stage," he said.

The current official target for December's Budget is for €3.6bn in tax increases and spending cuts -- which is the same as the last Budget.

During his interview on Limerick's Live 95FM, he did repeat his previous warning from the start of the campaign that a No vote would result in a tougher Budget. Mr Noonan said a No vote would result in the 2pc growth estimate for next year being marked down and make US multinationals stall on their decision to invest here. And he also said that being shut off from the €700m European bailout fund would have an impact on his Budget.

"If there is no access to funds, I would have to speed up the correction and plan a tougher Budget. Please God, it won't come to that," he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny backed up those remarks yesterday -- and even referred to the recent warning by ratings agency Standard and Poor's that a No vote could lead to a downgrade of our credit rating.

Rating

It currently has given Ireland a BBB+ credit rating -- the same as Spain -- but below Germany's top-ranking AAA grade. "You've had a number of ratings agencies already indicate that if the people were to turn down the fiscal stability treaty, that a downgrading of the country would follow," Mr Kenny said.

However, Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Finance Minister was being dishonest because the Budget targets had already been agreed with the troika.

"If the Government downgrades its own growth forecasts again it will be because of its failed economic policy, not the outcome of the referendum," he said.

With just two days to go to the referendum vote, there was another stark warning from the Charter Group which represents trade unionists in favour of the fiscal treaty.

Its secretary Blair Horan said the economic consequences of a No vote were truly frightening because it would shut the state off from the bailout fund.

"Without that option, pay for public servants, pensioners and those on social welfare benefits face savage cuts," he said.

However, United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett painted a similar doomsday scenario if there was a Yes vote. He said the State could have to contribute €11bn to the bailout fund and would be required to impose "further austerity" in return for accessing funds from it. "If you want more of the same austerity that we've had for the last four years, vote for the treaty. If you want an alternative, vote No," he said.

Irish Independent

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