Wednesday 23 May 2018

We will save €3 for every €1 raised, vows Varadkar

Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar at the Park Hotel, Kenmare yesterday. Varadkar was the keynote speaker at the Dublin Economic Workshop Conference
Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar at the Park Hotel, Kenmare yesterday. Varadkar was the keynote speaker at the Dublin Economic Workshop Conference
Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

FINE Gael would try to save €3 for every €1 extra raised in taxes and sell off semi-state bodies to raise further funds to invest in broadband, Fine Gael party spokesman Leo Varadkar said in Kenmare over the weekend.

Government should try to impose as much economic pain now to prevent further pain later in the cycle, he said in a speech which was given at short notice after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had to cancel his speech due to a family bereavement.

"The approach we are going for is front loading," he told his audience of economists. "Three to one is not going to be easy" although it had been done in Finland and Sweden in the early 1990s.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had never saved more than £2 for every extra £1 raised through new taxes, he noted. "In many ways three to one might be what the election will be about."

All parties accepted that the fiscal deficit had to be reduced so the next election will be fought over how much of the deficit should be erased by spending cuts and how much should be erased through tax increases, he predicted.

Fine Gael, which is currently drawing up a list of 100 ideas to reform the public sector, will be adopting many more ideas from the Bord Snip Nua report drawn up by Colm McCarthy last year than previously envisaged, Mr Varadkar said. The party also wants to create a single agency to inspect businesses and a single agency to determine means testing. Other ideas include investing the €11bn still in the National Pension Reserve Fund in domestic projects that will offer the Government a return on investment as well as the sale of Bord Gais Energy and ESB Customer Supply although the party is also considering the merits of selling the entire ESB in an initial public offering, he said. FG also wants to create an independent water utility to remove responsibility for water provision from local councils.

Mr Varadkar said the Taoiseach should use his position to prompt the DPP and the gardai to pursue people.

"Sean FitzPatrick, David Drumm, Fingleton. I think if they were arrested it would send shockwaves."

The 31-year-old added that the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) might be preventing property prices from hitting a floor and Fine Gael will examine whether it makes sense to force NAMA to begin selling property earlier than previously planned to bring some kind of certainty to the property market. Rents have not fallen as much as they should have "and we're concerned that NAMA is creating a problem there", he said.

Fine Gael would honour the Croke Park agreement if civil servants made real changes in 2011 but would revoke the agreement if they didn't, he said.

Irish Independent

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