independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Think-tank: Europe being sold different version of Budget than Irish

Dr Tom Healy Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute
Dr Tom Healy Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute

Europe is being sold a different version of the Budget than Irish people at home, an economic think-tank has claimed.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute (Neri) said the government has not accounted for a €600 million gap in the austerity package.

Tom Healy, director of the think-tank, suggested capitals in Europe were being told of €3.1 billion in cuts and tax hikes while taxpayers in Ireland were being persuaded it was only €2.5 billion.

"I'm suggesting it's quite possible because you are hearing two messages," he said.

Mr Healy said there was a huge effort in Europe towards "selling" Ireland's austerity measures with "concerns that there is no easing off on the austerity accelerator".

In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Michael Noonan referred to a 3.1 billion euro (£2.63bn) package, €2.5 billion of which was to come from spending cuts and tax hikes.

The €600 million gap was explained by a number of adjustments including "other savings".

"I have no idea what other savings really means and I think this ought to be clarified by government," said Mr Healy.

The economist also said the absence of some figures from the Budget - such as full year savings for each department - was "must unusual".

"We need better and more transparent information," he said.

"It's just impossible to properly assess what has been put on the table here and to know the full extent of the impact."

Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, has also claimed the Budget is based on "opaque numbers that don't add up".

"They have not produced the accurate numbers. The numbers don't add up. I know that to be true," Mr Healy said.

"Do they have a detailed breakdown on how the numbers should be balanced? The first question I would ask is are we having an adjustment of 2.5 billion or an adjustment of 3.1 billion? Which is it?"

The Department of Finance was unable to explain the €600 million gap, according to Mr Healy.

"What we found interesting is they can't give us how that money is calculated," he said.

"If a business was to do accounts that way, they have to be able to show where the money is from.

"If there is 600 million found some where they have to show where it came from. That's not in the Budget."

The Department of Finance said the €600 million is based on financial projections for the year ahead, largely made up of expected savings in the national debt and an expected drop in unemployment.

"This is what the figures are telling us we can expect to be saved," a spokesman said.

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