Kenny accused of downgrading ‘jobs budget’

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny was accused of downgrading the centrepiece legislation of his first 100 days in power by rebranding it from a jobs “budget” to just a jobs initiative.

Despite using the symbolic and specific term “jobs budget” throughout the election and as recently as last week, Mr Kenny rounded on opposition TDs for referring to it as such in the Dáil yesterday.

This prompted claims from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin that Mr Kenny was in a “muddle” and could be preparing the ground for a U-turn on his pledge to bring in a wide-ranging programme to tackle unemployment. The opposition also claimed the Government may be “running scared” because a budget could imply more tax hikes on the way.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Brian Lenihan said the Taoiseach was sending out distorted messages.

“They seem to be in a muddle about it, it’s all very confusing and they have said they will bring this in within seven weeks. I think they need to be more clear about what they are trying to do.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said: “It seems like another U-turn after they failed to burn the bondholders over bank recapitalisation. They’ve been calling it a budget all along, but not giving any clear answers on what it will contain.

“I think the IMF may be putting pressure on them to use it to bring in extra revenue-raising measures to try to cut the deficit now rather than later and that is causing the confusion.”

While the Programme for Government refers to the legislation to tackle unemployment within the first 100 days of office as a “jobs fund”, Mr Kenny was referring to it as a “budget” just a few days ago.

Yet he turned on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for using the term “budget” yesterday, stating: “We are talking about a jobs initiative as distinct from what the deputy calls a ‘jobs budget’.”

Measures outlined in the Programme for Government for the jobs legislation include cutting some levels of PRSI and service VAT, and abolishing the travel tax.

Due to the IMF bailout agreement, new costs incurred in the expected €220m package will have to be offset by revenue raising measures or cuts elsewhere in government spending.

A Department of Finance source said the Taoiseach’s sudden dropping of the term “budget” did not mean that no tax-raising measures would be included in the announcement as these could be included in a linked finance bill due to give legal status to the fiscal affairs of civil partnership couples. The Finance Department has always regarded it as a jobs fund, the source said.

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