Enda Kenny has promised Fine Gael will outline a fully costed five-year economic plan for his party’s election campaign and pledged to reduce unemployment to 6%.
The Taoiseach also signalled that his party would make radical moves to take people off welfare payments if returned to power.
Addressing the annual Ibec president’s dinner last night, Mr Kenny — in a clear dig at Fianna Fáil — flagged the Coalition’s final budget next month as goodbye ‘showtime’ — hello stability’.
Following Wednesday’s endorsement of the Coalition’s €1.2bn-€1.5bn budget plans by the fiscal advisory council, Mr Kenny said the Government would never go back to boom and bust spending.
“Our recovering economy is fuelling a surge in tax revenue. In fact, after the first eight months of 2015, tax revenues are almost 10% higher on the same period last year. This is an important time in our recovery.
“Some people will look at these figures and shudder, thinking ‘Oh God, here we go back to the political burlesque of ‘showtime’. The bravado of ‘if I have it, I’ll spend it.’ Except they can relax — that’s not going to happen.”
Budget 2016 instead, he said, would be the first step to a wide recovery. In a clear criticism of Fianna Fáil, he added: “With our budget it’s goodbye ‘showtime’ — hello stability.”
In 2002, Fianna Fáil spindoctor PJ Mara famously kicked off the party’s manifesto with the words, “It’s showtime”.
Mr Kenny reiterated that the budget would reduce the 7% universal social charge rate so people pay below a cumulative 50% rate overall. Unfair tax rules for the self-employed will also be ended while the budget will also provide more affordable childcare, guests at the RDS dinner were told.
The Fine Gael leader also committed his party to outlining year-on-year promises for the future when it launches its election campaign. Mr Kenny has said there will be no election until next spring.
“In my capacity as leader of Fine Gael, I am committing this evening that as part of the upcoming general election campaign Fine Gael will publish a detailed, fully costed five-year economic plan.”
The plan will include replacing all jobs lost during the recession and reduce unemployment to 6% during the lifetime of the next government, reducing tax further and protecting Ireland from future shocks by delivering a surplus in the finances and reducing debt, he pledged.
The Fine Gael leader also put it up to other parties to produce five-year economic plans for voters.
But in a sign where Fine Gael may differ from Labour going into the campaign, Mr Kenny said the next government must produce more “radical” plans to help generations “trapped in cycles of joblessness”
“We need to rebalance the scales of fairness. We cannot stand by a system where unbalanced supports trap people into long-term unemployment rather than supporting people in work.”
Ahead of next month’s budget, Fianna Fáil last night raised questions about the Coalition’s tax cut pledges and exactly how much money might be available to spend on services.
Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said Revenue had informed him that a full year of a 2% reduction in the USC — flagged as the Coalition’s choice — could cost €728m.
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