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Snippet Contents:

-----and now his successor the Minister, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, is equipping primary and post-primary schools for the next wave of improvement.
This budget will deliver more than 2,200 new teachers and reduce the pupil-teacher ratio by one point at both levels. This is something that people involved in teaching have strongly recommended. We agreed with the recommendation but we did not have the resources to implement it. I am delighted to say that we do have them now. Again, this is about both progress and opportunity, the progress in making our schools better, and the enhanced opportunity that this provides in turn for our children. In all of this, we are investing in our future, investing in Ireland's potential, and we are doing it in a responsible and sustainable way. Our deficit will fall to just 1.2% of GDP and our debt-to-GDP ratio will fall to 93% next year. I know those figures do not seem incredibly important but they are. It means that next year our debt level will have fallen to just slightly below the eurozone average. People have seen that in recent days we borrowed €1 billion on the debt markets for 15 years, which is very long-term money, at an interest rate of 1.65%. This budget is firmly based in having the structure that meets the requirements of the EU treaties. Our debt-to-GDP ratio for 2015 will have fallen to 97% from the high that we inherited of over 120%. That means that we are bringing down the debt as we grow the economy. That is precisely the way the Keynesian and social democratic economists approach the business of putting an economy and a society back on its feet. We are doing this.
The difference could not be clearer. The single most striking thing about the Opposition's response to this budget has been the sense of absence and the sense of confusion. By "absence" I mean the absence of any serious idea to address the hard issues of the debt and deficit, which we have to do, in order to be able to borrow money at cheap rates. At the same time we have to be ambitious, to improve both the tax situation in terms of people at work and the provision of vital services for everybody in our country as well as providing solid income supports for people like pensioners who rely on social welfare in retirement. When I took over from the previous Minister for Social Protection, I faced a deficit, or a hole, in the Social Insurance Fund that was rapidly approaching €2 billion. I am happy to say that this year it will be down to a figure of just over €120 million. With the rate of job creation for which we are so ambitious to achieve, and which involves the people who come back to work contributing to PRSI, we should be in a position to have a surplus in the Social Insurance Fund next year.