Sunday 18 March 2018

Howlin pledges to start spending as he unveils Spring Statement

It is time for the Government to
It is time for the Government to "start spending again", Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

It is time for the Government to "start spending again", Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said as the Coalition prepares to unveil its first Spring Statement.

Mr Howlin revealed the Government will begin pumping more money into childcare, education, health and the Gardaí in a move the opposition will see as an attempt to buy the next election.

However, the minister insisted any new Government spending or tax cuts would not put the recovery at risk.

He said people have come through a period where they were afraid due to an "existential threat to our survival", but are now asking: 'What am I going to get back?'

"We said we'd have a deficit below 3pc in 2015, we've achieved that, despite the countervailing backdrops worsening [and being] even more challenging than we expected in 2011; we achieved that and now we have to set out where we want to start spending again," he said.

Mr Howlin's comments come the day before the Government is expected to announce the financial resources available for spending and tax cuts ahead of the next budget.

The precise details of this spending will be debated over the coming months, but it will focus on the plight of middle and lower income earners, who are expected to receive tax cuts.

The public sector is also set to benefit from the increased budget and a loosening of EU rules around Government spending.

The minister would not indicated how much money he had to spend but said the €700m additional funding the Fiscal Advisory Council suggested was an "underestimation".

Mr Howlin said he would make an announcement on capital spending in June which will include new schools, primary care centres and childcare projects. These projects will be a mixture of public private partnerships and fully State-funded builds. He also pledged to invest in technology for An Garda Síochána.

In the Spring Statement, the Government will set out a plan it believes will lead to 2.1 million people being employed by 2018.

However, it will warn that a reversal of reforms and significant tax cuts will put the country's recovery at risk.

The statement will mention Department of Finance research that claims this would reduce growth and lead to 20,000 fewer jobs by 2020.

Measures aimed at convincing Irish people living abroad to return home will also be unveiled.

Irish Independent

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