Lenihan: Budget cuts could exceed €3bn

Lenihan: Budget cuts could exceed €3bn

Budget cuts could run to more than €3bn, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan warned today.

At the Fianna Fáil pre-Dáil meeting in Galway, Mr Lenihan said the Government would have to be relentless in securing the savings achieved last year.

The minister warned there was scope to increase the figure if needed for stability and economic growth.

“The figure of €3bn is a minimum but again the Government will have to go through the different departments,” he said.

“We have to look at what can be saved and what the current position is.”

The minister last week revealed the Government had already pencilled €1bn of savings to be announced on December 7.

Mr Lenihan also criticised remarks by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who predicted it would take 10 years to fix the economy.

“Ten years to fix the economy? It’s a very long time,” said Mr Lenihan.

“I’ve certainly had plenty of difficulties in the last two years, I don’t deny that, we’ve had difficulties with our forecasts, I don’t deny that.

“But certainly if given the chance, I’ll have this problem sorted out and this Government will have this problem sorted out a lot earlier than 10 years.”

The think-in will hear expert advice and assessments from Jim O’Hara of Intel and Nama chief executive Frank Daly. The theme of the two day meeting at the Ardilaun Hotel is jobs.

In his opening address Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the challenges of getting the unemployed back to work, to adjusting public finances and containing the horrendous mistakes made by the banking sector could only be surmounted by building on the strengths of the real economy.

“To restore prosperity, to provide jobs and to ensure we are in a position to benefit from an upturn in the international economy, we are determined that those who take risks to create investment and jobs will be rewarded,” said Mr Cowen.

“To restore confidence and a sense of fairness we will ensure that all the relevant agencies of the State continue to vigorously pursue and punish any wrongdoing that led to our current difficulties.

“And to restore our standing with the people, we will be guided by the compass of what is right and best for Ireland to help to turn the corner towards a path of economic growth and renewed prosperity.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe, said Government was standing by its commitment to take a minimum of €3bn out of the economy.

“We have every confidence we can arrive at a satisfactory figure at the end of the economic debate,” he added.

Mr O’Keeffe also revealed the conference and Mr Cowen had so far focused on the positive elements in the economy and strong areas of growth, particularly Ireland’s brand image.

He said Enterprise Ireland and the IDA would be challenged but supported to achieve the targets they have to be met.

Elsewhere, Mr O’Keeffe said party members discussed boosting international trade, retraining the unemployed and the challenge of keeping graduates in the country, possibly with more integration between the third-level sector and industry offering training and experience.

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