Cowen: No silver bullet to fix crisis

NEXT Tuesday’s emergency budget won’t be a “silver bullet” to solve the economic crisis, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

Echoing comments made by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan this week, Mr Cowen indicated it would take several years for the public finances to be restored to health, with the budget being the “first step” in the process.

He also hinted that the number of junior ministers — which currently stands at 20 — would be cut.

Mr Cowen said the Government would have to demonstrate fairness in the budget and avoid targeting the most vulnerable.

“For me, it’s about making sure that I provide the leadership of a Government that is confident we are going to come through this, on the basis that we all know there is no silver bullet next Tuesday that solves the problem overnight, but that there’s a strategic approach to be taken about broadening the taxation system, about reconfiguring our expenditure programmes over time, but not going immediately for those who are most vulnerable in our society, but recognising that we have to try and show that there is a fairness, that there is a proportionality, that there is an ability for us to take the first steps — the first steps — not simply in a retrenchment programme, but one which will also provide us with the possibility to expand and develop in future in new ways,” he said.

Mr Cowen was speaking yesterday at an Irish Management Institute conference in Dublin.

Asked if he would address the “vast over-provision” of junior ministers, he replied: “Well, there are many issues in relation to the political system that will need to be addressed and those are part of what we’re talking about.”

Mr Cowen was speaking as the Central Bank forecast that gross domestic product will fall by as much as 7% this year, instead of the 4.7% figure it predicted in January.

Mr Cowen said he would send delegations to international markets after the budget to “give a clearer picture” of Ireland’s financial position.

Some had a “greatly exaggerated” picture of the scale of our problems.

“So again, we need to get out into markets and correct many inaccurate perceptions as to what exactly the financial position of Ireland is,” he said.


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