Ifac happier with Govt's budget sums but warns over Sláintecare and climate change billions

The watchdog's fiscal assessment report on October's budget submitted to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Ifac happier with Govt's budget sums but warns over Sláintecare and climate change billions

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the Government have been called to clarify Sláintecare costs.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (Ifac) is a good deal happier with the Government's budget sums but is still worried about the lack of detail over the billions that will be needed to fund Sláintecare and in getting the economy ready for climate change. 

The watchdog's so-called fiscal assessment report marks its full reckoning of October's budget and the much-improved outlook for the Irish economy in the second year of the pandemic. The report was recently submitted to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.  

The stronger-than-expected rebound for the domestic economy and the Government's new 5% pledge for overall spending has since lowered Ifac's concerns.  

Despite the enduring pandemic, the Government has spent less than once thought and helped build a platform for it to manage its finances next year. 

But it warned: "The costs of Sláintecare have not been updated since 2017 and there is no estimate of the budgetary cost of implementing the Climate Action Plan."

Before the budget, Ifac had become concerned that Government ministers would spend big on current spending, at a time when it had committed to significant increases in capital projects.  


Ifac is much happier but wants the Government "to follow through" on its commitments for careful management of the billions entailed in plans to spend in bringing Ireland's infrastructure up to European standards.                       

“The Government has set out a more credible strategy," Sebastian Barnes, the fiscal watchdog's chairperson, said, referring to the spending cap pledge made by the Government.          

"By sticking to its plans, this would deliver both higher investment and allow the debt ratio to fall to safer levels," Mr Barnes said, adding, however, that "the Government now needs to clarify the costs of Sláintecare and the new Climate Action Plan and how these will be funded sustainably".

Setting the 5% spending cap gets Ifac's approval but it slams as "a backward step" the Government's failure to restart issuing detailed spending ceilings that it once published in the annual budget. Ifac wants the setting of "spending ceilings for each department as legally required". 

Ifac also refocuses on the huge importance that the single tax source, corporation tax, plays in paying for public spending: The almost €12bn collected for the most part from multinationals last year now account for over 20% of all the taxes the Government raises annually.    

"The over-reliance on corporation tax needs to be addressed,” said Ifac, noting the huge changes on the way multinationals are taxed around the world.

Separately, S&P Global Ratings has used the Department of Finance estimate for a €2bn revenue annual loss from the global tax overhaul in its favourable outlook of Ireland, but warned the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol will continue to rumble.



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