Sunday 19 November 2017

Michael Noonan promises health and social welfare overruns to be tackled by end year

Michael Brennan
Deputy Political Editor

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has promised to tackle the spending overruns in the health and social welfare budgets by the end of the year.

He said that spending in the two departments was a cause of concern because it was somewhat higher than planned.

But Mr Noonan said that Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin would be working with Health Minister Dr James Reilly and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to ensure that their spending targets would be achieved. And he said the overall target of keeping spending below €55.9bn this year would still be met.

Despite the recent round of controversial cutbacks, spending at the Department of Health is still heading towards a €250m-€300m overrun for the year unless further action is taken. And social welfare spending is heading about €150m over budget, due to higher rates of unemployment.

Mr Noonan was delivering an address to the Dail on the state of the Irish economy.

He said the Government was acutely aware that the biggest economic problem was the 14.8pc unemployment rate “which is far too high”.

“The only reliable way to bring down unemployment is growth,” he said.

Mr Noonan said the economy was still growing following a 1.4pc increase in gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

But he said that demands for our exports next year will not be as high as had been anticipated in his department’s forecasts.

He added this was due to the drop in global demand, with GDP down in the eurozone and Britain in the second quarter of this year.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said “scraping along the bottom” was a fair description of the current state of the economy.

He said organisations like the IMF were not being swayed by the Government’s “PR machine” and had pointed out there were still significant risks to the Irish economy.

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