Friday 15 December 2017

FG will not buy into €15bn cuts until it gets more detail

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

FINE Gael last night refused to say if it will match the Government's cutbacks target of €15bn, claiming it still needs "more detailed" financial figures.

Party leader Enda Kenny also criticised Taoiseach Brian Cowen for failing to list a "single proposal" the Government will carry out in the imminent draconian Budget.

However, Mr Kenny failed to provide any specific plans for multi-billion euro cutbacks during yesterday's special Dail debate on the economy.

Instead, the Fine Gael leader stuck to broad themes of needing to create jobs, reform the political system, overhaul the public sector and introduce a new healthcare plan.

Fine Gael TDs repeatedly cast doubt over the Government's target of €15bn throughout the day and claimed they still needed more specific figures and forecasts.

Their criticisms came despite a series of briefings on the financial figures from the Department of Finance over the last fortnight.

The department has provided an average growth figure of 2.75pc per annum in calculating its €15bn correction over four years.

But Fine Gael claims the Budget cutbacks could be as high as €20bn or as low as €9bn depending on which annual growth forecasts from independent experts are used.

The Fine Gael frontbench met for more than two hours yesterday to discuss its Budget plans and public sector reform document. However, no decision was made on how much should be cut over four years.

"We are not at the stage where we are prepared to sign up to a figure from a government that has got every other figure wrong," one frontbench TD said after the meeting.

Fine Gael has said it is committed to reducing the deficit to 3pc by 2014. But the party's finance spokesman Michael Noonan said he could not agree with the €15bn figure.

He said even a small variation in growth rates would have a huge effect on the target.

If Davy's growth forecast of 1.9pc for 2011 and 2.2pc up to 2014 were realised, the correction would be up to €20bn.

But if the Economic and Social Research Institute's growth rate targets were realised, the correction would only be €9bn.

"We are not buying in. We need more information. We certainly need to know how the minister built up his forecast," Mr Noonan said.

Irish Independent

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