Friday 24 November 2017

Gilmore plays down split in Coalition over Budget

Colm Kelpie Beijing

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is trying to play down the split within the Coalition over the level of cuts and taxes in the forthcoming budget.

Speaking in China, Mr Gilmore insisted he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny agreed on Budget targets and claimed the Government was not going to pursue austerity measures for the sake of it.

But Mr Kenny set himself on a collision course with Mr Gilmore by indicating there would be no let up in the austerity planned for the October Budget.

He claims that easing off now risks "jeopardising everything we have all worked for".

Mr Gilmore has suggested that October's Budget might not include the full €3.1bn of tax increases and spending cuts that had been planned.

The Tanaiste said the target this year was to cut the budget deficit to 5.1pc of the value of the economy.

An adjustment of €3.1bn could bring the Government in ahead of that deficit target.

"The Taoiseach and I are on the same page. The 5.1pc is the target, 3pc is the target for 2015. There have been no other targets," Mr Gilmore said.

The Labour Party is arguing the €1bn benefits of the promissory note deal can be used to ease up on austerity – and claims the full €3.1bn isn't needed to reach our deficit targets.

However, others such as the Central Bank and the Fiscal Advisory Council, the Government's independent economic advisers, have warned against going down this route.

Mr Gilmore, who is in China on a trade and diplomatic mission, yesterday distanced himself from that advice.

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"We are not going to put our recovery at risk but neither are we going to pursue austerity measures for their own sake," he said.

"There are some people who seem to think that we should do austerity for austerity's stake. I don't believe we should do that."

Meanwhile, SIPTU President Jack O'Connor has called on the Government to reconsider the plan for the Budget.

He urged the Coalition to show courage and "stand up to the tyranny of Europe" in applying fiscal adjustments on struggling people.

"We should apply the law of digging holes; we should stop doing what doesn't work in this country and what doesn't work is ruthless, one-sided fiscal austerity which has seen the eurozone experience eight consecutive quarters of decline," he said.

Irish Independent

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