Saturday 20 January 2018

Troika has no problem with Croke Park, insists Howlin

Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

THE EU-IMF bailout team doesn't have any problems with the current Croke Park Agreement, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has insisted.

"They are content with the savings we have set out," Mr Howlin said when asked whether the EU-IMF bailout team was worried that the Croke Park Agreement maintains wages at relatively high levels.

Mr Howlin said the troika inspectors had not raised any issues about Croke Park but he had brought the subject up himself because newspaper reports suggested the troika had concerns.

Previous troika reports on Ireland have consistently highlighted the Government's failure to cut the public sector pay and pensions bill.

"In general terms there are no issues with the troika," he said.

Mr Howlin added the country was doing well and the entire government spending was just €100m above target so far this year. The IMF and other bailout partners worried about the total amount spent by Government rather than the amount spent by each department.

He reiterated that the Government is looking for further cuts in the public sector although these cuts will be limited to some individuals and departments. The Government is looking for "targeted, focussed" redundancies, he added.

The Department of Health and the Department of Social Protection have breached spending limits as the "intractable" problem of unemployment boosts demand for welfare payments and the Department of Health fails to rein in the cost of medicines and overtime.

Health

Mr Howlin said the Department of Health won't be €500m over budget by the end of the year but he declined to say what the overrun would be. He added that he and Heath Minister James Reilly will work "might and main" to address the current overspend.

On the sale of state assets, Mr Howlin said the privatisation programme demanded by the troika is "progressing apace". He said huge work has been done on the sale of Bord Gais assets and work had also been done in relation to Coillte. The Government is also due to sell a stake in Aer Lingus and ESB power stations.

Mr Howlin said that over 160 commitments to the bailout partners have been fulfilled on time and the country has withdrawn about 80pc of the programme funding.

Mr Howlin added that the troika was happy with the €3m limit on debts which can be dealt with under the forthcoming Personal Insolvency Bill.

His comments came after Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the €3m cap on people using the insolvency legislation would remain despite European Central Bank fears that this was too high.

The ECB wanted a €1m cap while the Department of Justice wanted a cap of €10m.

Irish Independent

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