Bruton defends 'balanced' Budget

Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 00:00

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton has defended the Budget as a “balanced and fair” package which addressed the Government’s top priority of job creation.

He defended the Cabinet’s decision not to transfer much of the cost of sick pay from the State to employers, saying it would have been wrong to do this when so many employers were “hanging by their fingertips”. The sick proposal had been mooted by Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton but didn’t get through Cabinet.

Mr Bruton, speaking this morning at the MacGill Forum in Dublin, said every budget was about choices and on this occasion the Government had sought to create opportunities for employment while minimizing unfairness by not increasing income tax or reducing social welfare payments.

Referring to the verdict of ESRI economists that the Budget was regressive, he said there would always be individual issues that would prove difficult.

Mr Bruton admitted the economic challenge facing the country was more acute than it had been during the summer and described the unemployment figures of the last quarter as disappointing.

Irish society had to prioritise the creation of employment as the goal around which people would gather, he said, and this would take systems out of their comfort zone.

He said Irish people had to be “quick adaptors” to cope with challenges such as growing population, global warming and an ageing population. However, there were grounds for confidence that Ireland would be able to take on these challenges

Michael Somers, former chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), said Ireland was now “off the radar” internationally and wasn’t going to get help from anyone.

Referring to the growth in regulation, he said we had to be careful that our “zealotry in getting everything correct” didn’t put people off from coming here to invest.

Expressing concern about the maintenance of social cohesion, he said Ireland would probably get through its problems “but we may be a smaller, poorer country at the end of it all”.