Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has denied the Government is planning a “giveaway” budget which, while winning short-term support public support, could seriously damage the economy.
Mr Donohoe, who is also Public Expenditure Minister, made the comment despite his predecessor Michael Noonan recently criticising new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for loosening debt repayment and spending plans.
Speaking on RTE Radio’s This Week, Mr Donohoe said the recovery is continuing and that it is his intention to ensure it can be felt in every household in the country.
However, despite a number of high-profile projects being planned in the near future — including road and transport services, and USC changes, which could help win over voters before the next election — he insisted this does not mean a controversial “giveaway” budget is imminent.
“If we were focussed on the concept of a giveaway budget, to use your phrase, my starting point would not be to balance our books, it would not be to use the proceeds of AIB to balance our books,” said Mr Donohoe.
“And it would not be to how we begin focussing on capital investment spending.”
Mr Donohoe said the Government aims to deliver a structural deficit of 0.5%, which “would be equivalent to our country delivering a balanced budget”.
He said that, by “balancing our books”, the Government can make “accelerated progress on the things our citizens need”.
The next budget is likely to be highly politicised due to ongoing suggestions of an early general election due to the difficulties between Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael and confidence and supply opposition partner Fianna Fáil, with both parties keen to out-flank each other over key financial issues.
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