Aid target failure a 'national disgrace'

THE Government's failure to meet its overseas aid target and the lack of any provision for promised extra gardaí in the Book of Estimates were criticised last night.

The lack of a full capital programme for many areas including health, education and transport was also seized on by the opposition as evidence of Government incompetence.

Labour finance spokesperson Joan Burton said the "abandonment of the commitment to the 0.7% target for Overseas Development Aid was a national disgrace".

"It is a breach of faith with the world's poor, and a blot of dishonour on our international reputation," she said.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton welcomed some measures, such as those aimed at primary care and special needs children.

However, Mr Bruton said the Estimates were "big on talk but low on delivery".

"Those who hoped that the era of stealth taxes were over will be disappointed. By imposing a substantial real cut in the funds available to local authorities, we can again expect local authorities to resort to substantial increases in commercial rates and refuse charges," he said.

Green Party finance spokesman Dan Boyle TD said the Estimates revealed "enormous gaps between what this Government intends to do and the new caring image that they are attempting to cultivate".

"The Government has already hyped up in advance increases in health funding. Current expenditure will go up by 10%. The other side of the coin though is that capital expenditure - which includes additional beds and on the ground health facilities - has been cut by 7%," he said.

Mr Boyle also criticised the 4% cut in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Estimates signalled the early start of Fianna Fail's election campaign.

"These Estimates ... signal the early start of the Fianna Fail General Election campaign. Very belatedly they are addressing some of the promises they left unfulfilled, most notably the extension of medical card cover," he said.

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