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Budget Statement 2018

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Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe)

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Snippet Contents:

Budget day offers the opportunity to reflect on a journey made, to recognise both what our country has achieved and what we want to achieve. On this budget day, we build on progress that would have looked impossible only a few short years ago. Today, we redouble our efforts to rise to the challenges that exist while mapping our national response to the new risks but also to the new opportunities of tomorrow. We should do so - and I do so - with optimism and with confidence in what we can achieve and in where Ireland can still go. Upon my appointment as Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform by our new Taoiseach, I articulated three economic pillars of this journey. Budget 2018 sees their delivery. This budget will safeguard our national finances and help to rebalance our economy, promote fairness and provide for sustained improvements in people's lives and make sensible and long-term investments to benefit us now and into the future. It has been framed to comply with the confidence and supply agreement between this Government and the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil. Its representatives are making their contribution to Ireland achieving more and I acknowledge that now.
The Economic and Budgetary Position
Before moving on to the strategy and measures for both revenue and expenditure, I will outline the economic and budgetary position of the Irish economy. The economy continues to grow strongly, with real growth projected to be 4.3% in 2017 and 3.5% in 2018. The benefit of this economic growth is best illustrated in the employment figures which show 19 consecutive quarters of employment growth, with gains visible across most sectors and well balanced across our country. Unemployment is now at its lowest since 2008 at 6.1% and is forecast to fall to 5.7% on average in 2018. This is close to the level considered to represent full employment in Ireland just six years since we had an unemployment rate at over 15%. There remains much to be done and our challenge is to maintain this progress and use the benefits of this growth for a better, fairer Ireland.
Balancing our Books
In this context, the budget I am setting out to the House today will deliver this Government's long-held objective of balancing our books in structural terms by achieving the medium-term budgetary objective, MTO. Achieving the MTO is not an end in itself. Sticking to careful budgeting through adherence to the rules agreed by the Irish people in the referendum on the fiscal compact will not protect us from every crisis. However, it will help reduce the chances that future crises are home grown and will mean that our economy, public finances and our society are in a better position to weather crises caused factors beyond our control. We know the list of these potential external risks is lengthy. It includes Brexit, potential changes in US trade policy and various geopolitical threats that could have impacts on the global economy and our country. That is why balancing our books in 2018 will also mean we can devote additional resources to tackling the needs of the Irish people and the economy in 2019 and beyond. In headline terms, the projected deficit for this year is 0.3% of gross domestic product, GDP, and taking account of the budget package, the forecast deficit for 2018 is 0.2% of GDP. In structural terms, the metric by which our obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact are set and measured, we will deliver a structural deficit of 0.5% of GDP, thus achieving Ireland’s medium-term objective.
Reducing the debt burden we face is critical. Our debt-to-GDP ratio has come down impressively in recent years but it is still too high. We cannot ignore the level of this debt and what it could mean for future generations. That is why sticking to careful budgetary plans, avoiding overruns and protecting our solid economic growth will continue to reduce the debt burden in the coming years and reinforce the resilience of both our economy and our national finances.