Lenihan seeks Opposition proposals on recovery


THE MINISTER for Finance sought Opposition proposals for economic recovery, as the Fine Gael leader indicated possible support for a new budget.

Brian Lenihan said he was extending an invitation to the Opposition parties to submit any proposals they might have to his department’s secretary general for costing by his officials.

“The fiscal strategy we adopt now is of fundamental importance to the future of this country. We must all play our part in dealing with this unprecedented downturn.” He said he appreciated the concern voiced by Opposition members about their anxiety to contribute to the resolution of the State’s economic problems.

“I am not going to listen to any more programmes on radio or television in this country suggesting that we do not listen, or we do not entertain constructive suggestions from the Opposition.”

Enda Kenny said it was vital that the Government announce now that it would deliver a new budget.

“The Fine Gael party will enter this debate constructively. Nothing is off the table from our part, given the continuing deterioration in the public finances.”

Mr Kenny suggested a carbon tax of 25 euro per tonne, from April, raising about €500 million this year and €750 million next year. He also suggested imposing “national recovery taxes”, one point on to the top and the standard rates of tax.

Mr Kenny was speaking during a debate on his party’s Private Members’ motion calling on the Government to introduce a new budget as a matter of urgency.

Mr Lenihan, who was replying to the motion, said he was arranging for his department to brief Opposition representatives on the latest position as well as the social partners. His officials would set out the scale of borrowing required and the income and spending projections likely over the next two years.

Mr Lenihan said further Government action was required in the light of the exchequer returns.

“Accordingly, the Government will be considering what additional measures are now required to restore order and ensure that we stick to the agreed framework agreed by all earlier this year.

“We have already stated that we must restore the current budget position to balance by 2013 so that we are not borrowing for day-to-day spending.”

The Government, he said, remained vigilant and was committed to continuing to take the hard decisions to ensure the stabilisation and sustainability of the public finances.Mr Lenihan said the Government had decided to announce the further necessary measures by the end of the month.

“This will involve the introduction of additional taxation and expenditure measures in 2009 to address the continued deterioration in the public finances and to ensure that the general Government deficit this year does not worsen from the previously forecast 9.5 per cent of GDP.

“No option can be excluded at this stage and no option will be excluded at this stage.”