Cowen open to Opposition ideas on reducing deficit


The Government is willing to listen to ideas and submissions on how to reduce the State’s budget deficit from Opposition parties or anyone who can make a contribution, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

Mr Cowen said it was important that people overcame party interests to reduce the deficit to from 14 to 3 per cent between now and 2014.

He said he had spoken to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan about making a designated official from his department available to the Opposition spokespersons to come forward with ideas and proposals.

“I’m open to listening to any constructive proposals from any quarter in the national interest,” Mr Cowen told reporters in Galway last night.

“We need to come constructively to these issues. There are differences of opinion people will have…that’s the nature of the political system we have, but it is important that everyone tries to rise above party interests.”

He said the issue “will confront this or any other government in this country between now and 2014”.

The Taoiseach said work would soon begin on drawing up a four year plan to reduce the deficit in order to “give a very credible pathway to people abroad and people at home to the challenges we face which are all ones we’re determined to surmount”.

Mr Cowen played down comments from EU economics commissioner Oli Rehn suggesting the State may need to raise the 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate as a means of reducing the deficit.

“It’s a fact of life that after what has happened, Ireland will not continue as a low-tax country, but it will rather become a normal tax country in the European context,” Mr Rehn said.

“You ask about tax increases, I do not want to take any precise stand on an issue which is for the Irish Government . . . to decide, but I would not rule out any option at this stage.”

Mr Cowen said the commissioner was talking about examining the tax take of the country overall. “As you know there are many tax heads and revenue raising possibilities that have to be looked at over the period we are talking about.”

The Taoiseach refused to be drawn on what tax increases were in the pipeline

On the subject of corporation tax he said he could not envisage making “decisions that would put at risk the continuing investment profile we are seeing in Ireland”.