Howlin planning ‘socially progressive’ budget measures
Labour figures to argue savings package of €3.1 billion is unnecessary as it would beat troika’s targets
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin who said today any reporting on potential budget measures should be regarded as “entirely and completely speculative”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has refused to rule cuts to specific areas of Government spending in or out, saying he would not be held to a budgetary “checklist”.
It has been suggested that State supports such as the old-age pension and university grants are in line to be cut when the budget is announced in October.
But Mr Howlin said any potential measures reported to date should be regarded as “entirely and completely speculative”, as he and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had yet to fix the “budgetary parameters”.
“We have brought no proposals for the parameters of the budget to Government yet and I have embarked on no bi-lateral discussions with any line minister yet,” he said.
“I’m not going to set out a checklist of ins and outs. We have a programme for government. We know the parameters of that.”
Improving Exchequer figures and savings arising from a deal on promissory notes related to Anglo Irish Bank are seen to have given additional scope for the Government to ease up on austerity.
However, the troika argues the safest option for the Government as it seeks to regain full access to private debt markets is to stick to the €3.1 billion for tax hikes and spending cutbacks.
Speaking to journalists in Dublin today, Mr Howlin reiterated the Government’s commitment to reducing the State’s budgetary deficit to less than 3 per cent by 2015 and said he hoped this could be arrived at in a “socially progressive” fashion.
“We have reached each milestone on the way to achieving that (deficit target) and we want to do it in a way that is as socially progressive as we can make it,” he said.
“Taking money out of any of the expenditure is difficult and it has been difficult for people all along.”
Mr Howlin quoted his former Labour colleague President Michael D Higgins in saying he wanted to ensure that “a basic threshold of decency is maintained in all public expenditure”.