DUBLIN: Ireland launched its seventh successive austerity budget yesterday, paving the way for the eurozone nation’s exit from an international bailout programme in just two months’ time.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan, unveiling his third annual budget, said the government would seek to claw back ¤2.5bn ($3.37bn) via taxation hikes and spending cuts.
“One of the primary tasks of this budget is to lay down the conditions for a successful exit from the bailout programme at the end of this year, or to put it another way, to fund ourselves fully through the international markets in a sustainable way at competitive interest rates,” Noonan said.
“The purpose of this budget is to continue the progress we have made; to reinforce policies that grow the economy; to establish the conditions which will create jobs; and to prepare for exiting the bail-out programme,” Noonan added.
“To this end the government has designed this budget. We will bring in a deficit of 4.8 percent in 2014, we will bring in a small primary surplus, demonstrating that our national debt, which has been rising for so many years, is under control.”
The budget is aimed at bringing the deficit down to less than the EU ceiling of 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015.
Spending minister Brendan Howlin announced a number of schemes to encourage the embattled construction sector. He also signalled the roll-out of free GP-care to children under five, in a move seen by many as the first step towards universal healthcare.
The reduced VAT rate of 9.0 percent for the hospitality sector, seen as a major boost to Ireland’s important job-generating tourism sector, remains unchanged. There are also no changes to income tax or VAT and the levy on petrol, diesel and home-heating oil remains unchanged. AFP