The Government must stick to “prudent budgetary policies” in order to create jobs and ensure economic recovery, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in a televised national address last night.
Mr Kenny marked the exit of the bailout by also admitting tentative signs of growth have yet to be felt in people’s daily lives.
However, the Taoiseach said “now is not the time to change our course or direction”. “While the bailout is over, we must approach the future with that same clarity and decisiveness.
“The clear and decisive path that has been followed for the past three years puts us in a position where we can now be optimistic for our country’s future. But the progress that we have made must not be put at risk.”
Mr Kenny also said continued control over the public finances, as well as a renewed focus on job creation, will be the central pillars of a post-bailout economic plan which is likely to be published tomorrow.
“Everyone knows that you can’t keep spending more than you are earning,” the Taoiseach said. “As of today, we have already completed over 90 per cent of the necessary cuts and tax increases. As a result, we can now begin to reduce the national debt burden.
"We must continue to pursue prudent budgetary policies. That's what convinces those who create jobs that Ireland is a place in which they can invest with confidence."
The medium term economic plan will say one more tough budget is needed, and austerity will end in 2016.
Economic growth will then become the driver to reach EU debt and deficit targets, rather than cuts and taxes.
However, the plan is also intended to send out a signal internationally that Ireland will keep to fiscal discipline and will carry on reforms in areas like social welfare and the legal profession.
Mr Kenny said exiting the bailout “is an important step but it is not an end in itself”.
“Our lives won’t change overnight. But it does send out a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever.
“Your patience and resilience have restored our national pride and empowered us to face the challenges that remain.
“I know that many people are struggling to make ends meet. I also know that, for many of you, the recent improvements in the economic situation are not yet been felt in your daily lives.
“But it is now clear that your sacrifices are making a real difference. Ireland is now moving in the right direction. Our economy is starting to recover.”
The Taoiseach also said that by 2020, total employment will be increased to over two million people, replacing all the jobs lost in the economic crash.
The same year will also see government borrowing eliminated and public debt cut by a quarter, Mr Kenny said.
The economic plan will also set out “the steps that we intend to take to grow our economy between now and 2020”.
“The creation of jobs will be at the heart of the plan. The plan will focus on developing the skills of our workforce, particularly our young people.”
It will also focus on reforming the welfare system to provide support for unemployed people to take up new jobs, and will show “how we will require the banking system to become a contributor to the economy, rather than a huge drain on it.
“The banks must do more to deal with mortgage distress and to provide access to credit for small business.”