Friday 13 December 2019

It's hard to please all of the people all the time

Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan

FOR Michael Noonan, it's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The Government got soft in middle age, turned its plan for a final austerity Budget into a mild give-away, leaving debt set to peak at a level €10bn higher than would otherwise have been the case. That's essentially the argument from the Fiscal Advisory Council.

It claims that, had the Government stuck with its plan to dig another €2bn out of the economy, we'd be within a hair's breadth of having a balanced Budget by 2016.

But if the events of recent weeks have taught us anything, it's that the downtrodden Irish electorate is becoming more vocal and enraged.

Politically, another austerity Budget just wouldn't have passed muster. The Government has had to tread a fine line between balancing the political pressures of appeasing an austerity-battered public and the concerns of the Troika, the Fiscal Advisory Council and others who have argued for a more cautious approach to our finances.

Some may feel the Government has made a mess of striking the right balance. The water protesters certainly think so, and they'll argue the Budget wasn't soft enough.

Fiscal Council chairman John McHale is signalling that mounting political pressures from such quarters threaten to lead us down the path of past mistakes.

As we approach the first anniversary of the bailout exit, the Government is learning that regained economic independence is proving difficult to manage.

And as he balances competing pressures, Michael Noonan won't be able to please everyone.

Irish Independent

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