Lenihan challenges parties over cuts

BRIAN Lenihan branded opposition parties policy-free zones last night as he challenged them to examine the national books and say how they would handle the economic crisis.

After bracing the country for up to €4 billion worth of cuts in the looming December Budget, the Finance Minister tried to turn his fire on Fine Gael and Labour.

He accused opposition leaders of hiding behind the excuse they did not have access to Finance Department information.

Mr Lenihan said that was not true and they should “come in” and see the real state of thenational situation.

Mr Lenihan was speaking on the final day of Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party gathering Galway. TDs and senators wereaddressed by the head of NAMA Frank Daly as part of their attempts to focus on the economy ahead of the new Dáil term.

Mr Daly said there was a new sense of reality among borrowers regarding NAMA.

“We are asking them, what are your plans, how do you intend to work this out, how do you intend to work with us: if you work with us, we’ll work with you; if you don’t, well then, it’s a different story.

“NAMA is only part of the process of getting the banks into a healthy state. What we’re contributing is, taking these loans, taking the deadweight off their books, giving them in return bonds which they can take to the European Central Bank or wherever, improving their liquidity,” he said.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen would not rule-out final budget cuts of €4bn, but said he did not expect it to be that high.

Mr Cowen denied the extra cuts warning was a “softening-up” exercise.

“Let’s avoid word games. We need to cut our deficits. The minimum figure we’re talking about is €3bn. It is important people understand that for every €5 we spend, we’re taking in €3 in exchequer returns,” he added.


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