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Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

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Deputy Paul J. Connaughton

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Snippet Contents:

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important Bill. When the electorate went to the polls on 31 May, it endorsed the contents of the fiscal compact treaty and the Bill marks the enactment of its wishes. Since the vote at the end of May, the need for Europe-wide agreement on budgetary rules has become even more apparent. It is only through greater budgetary discipline that the European project will be steered through the current impasse. Passing the Bill is crucial if the country is to meet its obligations under the treaty before the deadline of the end of the year. I am, therefore, heartened by the Government's commitment to enacting the Bill at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Bill imposes a duty on the Government to stay within the budgetary rules and if there is a deviation from any medium-term budgetary objective by more than 0.5% of GDP, the Government will have to introduce corrective mechanisms, as agreed in the common principles adopted by the European Commission. It will be difficult for Ireland to meet all of its budgetary objectives in the coming years, but the upside of the Stability and Growth Pact is stability, the key factor in creating the conditions in which the country's economic fortunes can be turned around.
Unprecedented shocks to the economy prior to the Government taking office created a precarious financial position which eventually led to the institution of a deficit procedure involving the troika of the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. I note that the debt rule provisions of this Fiscal Responsibility Bill will require Ireland to reduce debt in excess of 60% of GDP by one twelfth each year. This will apply for the three years after Ireland has exited the deficit procedure.
The Bill will assign monitoring and assessment functions to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. My only regret is that the council was not instituted ten years ago because perhaps then we might not have plummeted to the economic depths experienced in recent years. This independent body will be tasked with assessing the official spring and autumn macro-economic and budgetary forecasts produced by the Department of Finance. It is also welcome that if the Government does not accept the assessments of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, it must explain its reasons publicly, a necessary underpinning of the principles involved.
The Fiscal Responsibility Bill represents a growing acknowledgement at European level that the structures in place were inadequate. They allowed the current impasse to develop by permitting some countries, including Ireland, to incur massive debt which now must be addressed if the European Union is to move forward. The coming months will see the debt issue addressed properly. Addressing the debt legacy is the obvious next step in the process, as the European Union acknowledges the mistakes of the past, decides on the structures necessary to ensure there will be no repeat of these mistakes and puts the structures in place.