Government’s Covid bill expected to hit €28bn by end of 2021

‘Better days are ahead’ – Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath

24/02/2021 - NEWS - Michael McGrath Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform photographed for a Martin Wall interview.Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

24/02/2021 - NEWS - Michael McGrath Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform photographed for a Martin Wall interview.Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Government spending on Covid-related measures is expected to hit €28 billion by the end of this year, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has said.

The total covers expenditure on Covid-related measures in 2020 and 2021 and spending on wage and business supports as well as increased health spending on the pandemic.

At a webinar event hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Mr McGrath said it was “entirely appropriate that we have acted to support the economy in these circumstances”.

He said a general government deficit of €19 billion, or nearly 5.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) is expected for 2020, a €21 billion swing from 2019.

A deficit of a similar size is expected again in 2021, he said.

“As a Government we are committed to restoring the public finances to a sustainable trajectory and ensuring that Ireland does not become an outlier as we emerge from the pandemic period,” Mr McGrath said.

Economic forecasts

The Government will set out its economic and fiscal forecasts as part of the annual Stability Programme Update next month, he said.

On the loosening of Covid-19 restrictions announced on Tuesday, Mr McGrath said he believes the “announcements will prove to have been a very important stepping stone on the road to normality.”

“Over 800,000 vaccine doses have been administered to date and during the second quarter of the year there will be a very significant ramping up of the programmes which will greatly assist in the opening of the country when that is appropriate,” he said.

“It is undoubtedly the case that better days are ahead,” he said.