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 Header Item Education (Welfare) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: First Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Personal Apology by Minister
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2012
 Header Item Financial Resolutions 2013
 Header Item Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Before recommending business, I want to repeat what I stated prior to suspending the sitting. I did not in any article mention any Deputy in relation to his or her dress code.

Personal Apology by Minister

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I understand that the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, wishes to correct the record.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In the heat of exchanges with Deputy Cowen, I made a remark which I regret and I want to withdraw.

  I knew the former Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, better than most in this House. I have a great deal of regard for the fact that, like his father before him, he did his public service in this House according to his own lights. I regret the remark I made and I want to withdraw it on the record.

Estimates for Public Services 2012

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I move the following Supplementary Estimate:

Vote 37 — Social Protection (Supplementary)

That a supplementary sum not exceeding €685,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2012, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Social Protection, for certain services administered by that Office, for payments to the Social Insurance Fund and for certain grants.

  Vote put and agreed to.

Financial Resolutions 2013

Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed)

Debate resumed on the following motion:

  THAT it is expedient to amend the law relating to inland revenue (including value-added tax and excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
--(Minister for Education and Skills).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I call on the Taoiseach to speak on to the motion.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Yesterday the Ministers, Deputies Noonan and Howlin, delivered the Government's second budget. This is not an easy budget for the people of Ireland nor could it have been, but it is a necessary step as part of our long-term plan for economic renewal. This budget is about supporting jobs, and about ensuring that the burden of the adjustment is fair. To fulfil our potential as an economy and as a country, we have to restore the public finances to a healthy condition. That is our real challenge as a country.

The budget will deliver the necessary fiscal adjustment, but it will also provide extra support for job creation and for small Irish businesses. Our role is to build the supportive environment so that the private sector can deliver the jobs that our people and our economy need.

I do not accept that we must be saddled indefinitely with current high rates of unemployment, slow growth and a squeeze on disposable incomes. These are neither inevitable nor tolerable. Our ambition is to move beyond the progress achieved to date, and to tackle these key issues head on.

Without the difficult action taken by the Government, the economy would not be on a solid pathway towards recovery and growth once again. Since taking office less than two years ago, the Government has worked to address the economic crisis we inherited from the previous Administration.

Some commentators attribute all of our economic difficulties to the banks and the enormous bailouts given to them by the previous Government. The reckless behaviour of banks and the equally reckless bank bailouts of the previous Government remain a major burden on the Irish people, and one which our European partners have now promised to reduce through renegotiation of the bailout deal, but reducing the burden of the bank bailouts will not, by itself, keep our economy on a sustainable path back to prosperity and full employment. This requires that we tackle with equal determination the two other economic legacies of recent Fianna Fáil-led Governments - the damage done to our export and foreign direct investment-led economic model during the credit-fuelled property boom and the massive underlying deficit we inherited in the public finances.

Even if the State had no banking-related debts whatsoever, we would still be dealing with an unprecedented gap between Government revenues and spending - the legacy of the reckless unfunded spending commitments of the previous Government and its "when we have it we spend it" philosophy. Even if the State had no banking-related debts whatsoever, we would still be dealing with the massive job-destruction legacy of the property and construction crash - the legacy of what one might call the "Galway tent" school of economics that left hundreds of thousands of our people without work and in need of re-skilling for the more sustainable, enterprise-led economy that we are trying to recreate.

Since taking office less than two years ago, the Government has worked hard to address the economic difficulties we inherited. We have prioritised fixing the public finances, restoring the banking system to some sense of normality, and supporting job creation and economic growth. Our economy finally returned to growth last year with GDP increasing by 1.4%, the first annual increase in GDP since 2007. We anticipate further modest growth this year. It proves that the Irish economy can grow even during a period of necessary and difficult budgetary consolidation and in a very challenging international environment.

The labour market has shown encouraging signs of stabilisation in recent months. While unemployment is still unacceptably high and its effects are felt far too wide, the most recent quarterly figures show that the employment situation has stabilised. The pro-job measures in the budget aim to build on these tentative steps to encourage greater job creation and investment.

Over the past year 20,000 new private sector jobs have been created following the loss of over 250,000 jobs in the private sector during the previous three years. The package of measures in the budget announced yesterday aimed at the small business sector will encourage businesses throughout the country to start expanding and hiring again. They will restore a much needed measure of confidence to the job creation sector.

The budget is a building block in the transition from the old failed economic plan based on property speculation and debt to a new competitive Irish economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation. That competitiveness is crucial for continued investment so that jobs can be created.

We have also seen signs of stabilisation in other parts of the economy, such as the property market. Residential property prices show a modest increase over the most recent three-month period, and the pace of annual decline is at its slowest since September 2008. While there is some way to go before the market returns to more normal levels, the latest surveys show the past quarter having the largest volume of mortgage loans issued since the end of 2010 - 3,983 for the third quarter of the year.

Budget 2013 also sees Ireland continue to face up to its economic challenges. Ireland and its people are recognised internationally for its sensible and pragmatic approach in dealing with our financial difficulties. This has greatly helped the Government in its important work of restoring Ireland's international reputation, which, as the House will be aware, had been badly damaged under the previous Administration. We continue to make very significant progress and there are many clear signs that Ireland's reputation has steadily improved.

In recent months the country has taken it first steps to restoring its economic independence by returning to the international markets for funding. Both pillar banks have raised money in the markets without State guarantee. Last year saw exports reach new heights of a record €173 billion - some 10% higher than in 2007, the highest pre-crisis figure. A good export performance is expected again this year. Nobody can deny the importance of that.

Budget 2013 will build on this progress by reducing the transport and export costs of small and medium sized businesses. Export transport is provided by hauliers, the majority of whom themselves are small businesses. I am pleased to note the introduction of a rebate on diesel with effect from the middle of next year.

This will also benefit the export orientated foreign multinational sector. Over the past year we have seen a strong line of investment decisions from new and existing multinationals creating thousands of new jobs.

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