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Budget Statement 2019

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Minister for Finance (Deputy Paschal Donohoe)

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Snippet Contents:

Today I present my second budget to the House and to the Irish people as Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.
INTRODUCTION
A decade on from the financial and economic crisis that wrought havoc on the lives and aspirations of so many of our citizens, I can report that our economy is again growing strongly and sustainably. A record number of people have jobs and many of our citizens who left in the wake of the economic crisis are returning home. Our public finances are balanced. The policies pursued by this Government and its predecessor have facilitated this. This has enabled us to invest record levels of funding into our key public services, including health and education. The shared progress we have made is real.
The risks and the challenges we now face, however, are equally real. We are working hard to deliver enough housing to provide secure and affordable homes for all our people. Brexit, the outcome of which is still unclear, edges closer each day. Increasing trade barriers are raising the spectre of protectionism, and the international tax landscape is changing rapidly.
For these reasons we must continue to maintain a broad and stable tax base and ensure that our spending is efficient and sustainable and that our economy is as resilient in bad times as it is dynamic in good times. I will run a budgetary policy that will see a budget balanced and will be designed on the basis of what is right for the economy at each stage of our economic cycle.
At this point I want to acknowledge the input of all colleagues in government in preparing this budget and of course the constructive engagement of the main Opposition party in the context of the confidence and supply agreement.
The budget I am setting out to the House will further develop the strength and resilience of our economy. We will manage our public finances responsibly; provide significant additional capital investment to enhance the growth potential of our economy and to improve the quality of life for our people; protect the most vulnerable in our society and promote real and sustainable increases in living standards for all; and of course prepare the economy for the many challenges of Brexit, the best preparation for which is responsible budgetary policy.
PREPARING FOR BREXIT
Brexit is the political, economic and diplomatic challenge of our generation. The Government has been clear on our objectives, robust in our negotiations and thorough in our planning. We will remain at the heart of the European Union and open to the world. We will protect our hard-won peace. We will implement responsible but ambitious policies for the future of our country.
The most important next step is to conclude the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop to ensure no hard border in Ireland, and the political declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Once that is concluded, the transition period will be in place until the end of 2020 and negotiations on the future relationship can move ahead. Of course, in these negotiations we acknowledge our unique shared past and our social, economic and cultural links. This is why Ireland will press for the closest possible relationship across the UK.
Across the Government the necessary measures to prepare for Brexit are being put in place. These plans are based on a central case that there will be agreement in the coming weeks. However, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit has influenced decisions we have made on our finances, balancing our books and investing in our capital infrastructure.
In addition to this, further decisions I will outline later today include the launch of a human capital initiative worth €300 million; the launch of a future growth loan scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, and the agricultural and food sector; the provision of over €110 million for Brexit measures across many Government Departments; and increasing funding for the PEACE programme.
As we look forward to 2019, this budget will help to ensure that Ireland is in the best possible position to respond to the challenges - and indeed even some opportunities - that Brexit will bring. We face the year of Brexit with a balanced budget, more people at work than ever before and a strong platform for future growth.
ECONOMIC PROGRESS IN 2018
I can confirm to the House that our economy is growing at a healthy pace. GDP growth of 7.5% is now forecast for this year, an upward revision of nearly two percentage points relative to our forecasts in the April stability programme update, supported by stronger than expected growth in the first half of this year. Next year, gross domestic product is forecast to increase by 4.2%. Domestic demand has increased by 6% in the first half of the year, and with exports increasing by just under 9% our growth is broadly based and supported by many sectors.