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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Estimates for Public Services 2015

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)

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Snippet Contents:

I move the following Supplementary Estimates: Budget 2016 set the expenditure forecast outturn at €54.9 billion. This figure included provision for gross Supplementary Estimates of €1.6 billion, which have now been debated at the relevant committees and are returning to this House today. The net forecast figure for the Supplementary Estimates - the gross figure minus moneys received in appropriations-in-aid, such as PRSI and pension contributions - set out in the expenditure report on budget day was just under €1.3 billion. These figures were entirely consistent with Ireland's obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact. As colleagues understand, Supplementary Estimates confer legal authority on Departments to expend money based on their best estimate of the year-end requirements. Departments are not allowed to exceed their Supplementary Estimate figure but in some cases it is not reached. As a result, the agreed Supplementary Estimates figure can sometimes overstate the actual year-end requirement. It is obviously better to have a buffer of some level than to run out of money.
I am pleased to report that the current forecast on outturn, which is provisional and will remain so until the final figures are in, is set to be in the region of €100 million in gross terms lower than the forecast in the expenditure report. How does this impact upon the public finances? The general Government deficit target for this year under the excessive deficit procedure is 2.9% of GDP, as Deputies will know. Budget 2015 set the deficit target of 2.7%. In the interim, both November and October saw tax receipts greatly exceed profile. The vast bulk of these receipts are sustainable, as confirmed in recent correspondence between the Revenue Commissioners and the Minister for Finance. Accordingly, based on the most recent data available, the end-of-year budget deficit forecast for this year will be in the region of 1.7% of GDP. This will obviously feed into the starting position for next year. It represents a remarkable turnaround on where we were when the Government took office almost five years ago. This improved economic position has allowed the Government to target additional expenditure in areas experiencing increased demand and demographic pressure. I am pleased we are in a position to do that.
It would be useful to put the increases provided in the Supplementary Estimates into context. In order to repair the public finances, gross voted expenditure was reduced from over €63 billion in 2009 to €54 billion in 2014. At the same time, while expenditure was being reduced, demographic and other cost pressures arising from increased demand for services still had to be met.
The Supplementary Estimates for 2015 allow for additional expenditure to be directed in particular towards the key areas of health, education and social protection. Funding is provided towards a summer works scheme to allow work to be carried out on schools that have been in need of refurbishment. There is funding for the IDA to support jobs in the regions and the regional programme we set out. There are further capital funds for the science and technology programme and the programme for research in third level institutions; a Christmas bonus for recipients of long-term social welfare payments; and funding in the health sector for the delayed discharge initiative, the fair deal scheme, the hospital waiting lists, the winter initiative and the rolling out of universal general practitioner services. There is additional expenditure on the public transport investment programme for the maintenance of the heavy rail network and the expansion of the PSO bus fleet, and on the roads programme to address critical works on the national road infrastructure and improve substandard paving on regional and local roads. The adverse weather of recent times will make the latter allocation all the more necessary. The additional expenditure provided by way of Supplementary Estimate represents a responsible approach towards ensuring public services are adequately funded to meet the Government's key social and economic objectives of protecting the vulnerable and creating economic conditions to support growth in employment.