Enda Kenny: ‘Economy starting to recover'
But Taoiseach warns that prudent policies will have to continue
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has acknowledged that the Irish economy has begun to recover but he warned tonight that prudent budgetary policies will have to continue.
In his state-of-the nation address he said that this week the Government will publish its new medium-term economy plan that lays out the road ahead for Ireland.
"It will be a plan based on enterprise, not on speculation," he said on RTE.
"We are never going back to that culture."
He added that the plan will have two central pillars - the pursuit of prudent budgetary policies and returning people to employment.
While employment levels have fallen more recently they are still stubbornly high - the standardised unemployment rate in November was 12.5pc but was as high as 15pc.
"While we still have far too many people out of work, jobs are being created," he said.
And it is clear your sacrifices are making a real difference, he added.
"Our economy is starting to recover," Mr Kenny said.
He said that when Ireland entered the bailout three years ago it affected everyone.
"Since then - the people of Ireland and your Government - have worked to deliver that plan.
"This has required very difficult decisions at home and tough negotiations abroad," he said.
He added that this was tough but decisive action needed to be taken to convince investors that we were serious about fixing our economy but from tomorrow Ireland will be able to access financial market like any other country.
And he said that we must now work to reduce our national debt burden - which stands at billions of euro.
Our finances, budgets and policies have been under intense scrutiny since the country agreed to the massive EU/IMF/ECB loan package in 2010.
The troika have carried out 12 intense reviews over the last three years and imposed a series of tough targets, all of which were met by the state.
The Irish public has endured four austerity budgets since the EU/IMF agreed to grant the bailout.
Over the past few austerity budgets, over €15bn has been taken out of the economy.
Despite the challenges, he said, Ireland is exiting the EU/IMF/ECB bailout programme tonight, and he added the while our lives won't change overnight, this is an important step if not an end in itself.
"While the bailout is over, we most approach the future with that same clarity and decisiveness," the Taoiseach added.
"While borrowing is still too high, our public finances are moving towards a more sustainable position."
He also said that we have seen progress and we must build on it.
"The creation of jobs will be the heart of the plan," he said.
"Three years ago, 1,600 jobs were being lost in this country - now over 1,000 extra new jobs are being created."
He added the Government plan will remove the barriers to new jobs in key sectors, and reform the welfare system to provide supports and incentives for unemployed people to take up new jobs.
The troika, especially the IMF, has long highlighted the necessary for unemployment to be addressed.
Mr Kenny also said that the government targets increasing total employment to over 2m people by 2020.
"Creating more jobs will also improve our public finances and help bring the era of tough budgets to an end," he added.
In conclusion, he thanked the Irish people for their contribution to Ireland's recovery to date.
"Throughout our history, the Irish people have already shown that nothing is impossible for us to achieve, when we really apply ourselves to a challenge or course," he said.