Noonan 'very confident' of State bailout exit in 2013
Mr Noonan also disclosed that the growth rate for next year will be lower than projected (in its own statement released shortly after lunchtime the Troika said it would be close to one per cent). He described it as a marginal mark down and said, because of inflation, it would not affect the fiscal figures on the tax flow.
He also said that there was a €2.4 billion repayment due in January 2014 which was an issue but was a much lesser figure than the €12bn that was originally scheduled to fall due for payment at that time. NTMA have entered the markets periodically over the past year to raise funds and reduce that figure.
The issue of distressed mortgages also came up. Mr Noonan said there was new data that showed that new cases of households with impaired mortgages had reduced substantially. He said he would wait for a little longer to see if this was a definite pattern.
“We are very close to the point where we can quantify the number of people with impaired mortgages,” he said.
Asked about discussions about overspends in Government departments, especially health, Mr Howlin said that there were minor slippages but they were being addressed. He said Troika officials were content with savings that had been achieved through the Croke Park agreement with public servants.
Addressing overspend in the health sector he said he and Minister for Health James Reilly would “move might and maim” to ensure the deficit was brought down.
Asked would the Department of Health be €500 million over budget for 2012, he said he did not expect it to be that high.
The troika review ran from October 16th to 25th and involved a series of meetings with Government ministers, opposition politicians, unions and other interested parties.
The troika raised concerns about the level of personal and household debt. “Intensified efforts are required to deal decisively with mortgage arrears and further reduce bank operating costs,” it said.
“Parliament is currently considering an ambitious reform of the personal insolvency framework. For this essential reform to succeed, a careful balance should be struck that addresses borrowers’ financial distress and protects the family home, while also reinforcing debt service discipline.”
On budget plans, the troika suggested: “The measures adopted in Budget 2013 should be durable, as growth-friendly as possible, and minimise the burden of adjustment on the most vulnerable.”
European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn also raised concerns at the 14.8 per cent unemployment rate.
“Many essential reforms have been implemented that can help the Irish economy to recover competitiveness, restore sustainability to public finances and lay the foundations for a return to job-rich growth,” he said. “Despite this, unemployment remains unacceptably high, especially among the young, and tackling it remains a top priority.”
Mr Rehn said he believed that government policies have struck the right balance between growth and debt-sustainability concerns and that it is important to maintain the high degree of social consensus.
Additional reporting: PA