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Budget Statement 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] Notwithstanding the progress made to date, the public service pay bill, at 36% of public spending, will need to make an additional and substantial contribution to meeting our fiscal challenge next year and beyond. Additional productivity and cost extraction measures not envisaged under the current Croke Park deal will be required to ensure that the Government meets these commitments.

Following my invitation, the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions recently agreed to enter into discussions to establish if we can reach agreement on such measures. The aim of these discussions is to achieve an additional reduction in the cost of delivery of public services of the order of €1 billion from the public service pay and pensions bill over the period 2013 to 2015.

Public servants are delivering on our vision for a new public service and their contribution should be and is recognised by this Government.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin This is a real opportunity for us to build on the achievements of the current agreement and drive a range of workforce reforms which will support our public services into the future. Reforming public services is not just about reducing unsustainable cost. We need a public service that is flexible and responsive to public needs – a service that will be world class.

Supporting Jobs and Enterprise

  Creating jobs for our people is central, as the Minister, Deputy Noonan, has said, to this Government’s agenda and the Minister has outlined a series of tax measures to build on the jobs budget and the Action Plan for Jobs the Government announced last year. The figures show some growth in private sector employment.

Jobs

  In 2013, we will maintain our support for employers across all sectors and in sustaining jobs. I am allocating total capital expenditure for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation of just under €500 million next year to drive the jobs and enterprise agenda.

  I am providing Enterprise Ireland with an allocation of €139 million to support indigenous Irish exporters next year. In addition to a wide range of existing measures, this will support the launch of a new ten-year €175 million venture capital fund which will fund new and expanding Irish companies over the medium term.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Government is restructuring county enterprise boards to provide a one-stop shop through the local authority system. This reform will be supported by an allocation of more than €26 million next year which will facilitate this transition and fund schemes to support small businesses in every county of our country.

A key challenge is to ensure new jobs will be created as our economy improves and result in a reduction in rates of unemployment. This will involve the Government providing for better targeting of labour activation places and opportunities to provide valuable work skills to unemployed people, particularly those who are long-term unemployed.

I am providing an additional €11 million next year, and €26 million in a full year, to allow the Department of Social Protection increase by 10,000 the number of placements available across the labour market activation schemes offered by that Department.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin This will improve employability and work readiness outcomes for participants by giving them opportunities to put their work skills into practice and to learn new skills. My colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, will outline these schemes in detail later today.

Capital Expenditure

  The five-year Exchequer Capital Framework published last year sets out a programme of Exchequer investment of €17 billion out to 2016 which will address critical infrastructure deficits, aid economic growth and jobs and provide for much needed infrastructure. The overall capital budget for next year will be €3.4 billion and will focus on the sectors prioritised in last year's capital review, namely, health, education and jobs.

  In July, I announced a new jobs stimulus initiative amounting to a package of €2.25 billion aimed at leveraging funds to support a new public private partnership, PPP, programme of projects in key areas of infrastructure. There have been some very positive signals to that initiative. PPP bundle 3 reached financial close last month and construction has commenced. A loan of €50 million secured through the European Investment Bank for this project is a further signal of that bank’s renewed confidence in the Irish State and in our recovery programme, as is the provision of €200 million in funding for Exchequer projects in schools and in the water sector.

  The capital allocation for education will ensure we will continue to provide additional school places next year to meet growing demographic demand. Preparatory works for the major Grangegorman DIT campus will also get under way next year.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin My officials are also engaging with the Council of Europe Bank on funding for the justice projects prioritised by the Minister for Justice and Equality in his PPP programme.

I have reached agreement with the troika that the proceeds of State asset sales, which will come on stream next year, can be used to support investment and structural changes in our economy and develop and create jobs. Last week, my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Leo Varadkar, gave details of the commencement of the pre-construction enabling works for the Luas Broombridge project which will be provided for in the allocation for the Department of Transport.

I am also providing €17.4 million to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the development of a new youth detention facility at Oberstown.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is driving this project, which is due to start next year and will create 520 jobs during construction. On completion, it will mean that 17 year old boys will no longer be detained in St. Patrick’s Institution which is unsuitable for children and has been heavily criticised by many national and international bodies.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We have long recognised that energy efficiency measures in both the public and private sectors have the potential to generate jobs and to help Ireland meet its climate change targets. Ireland has challenging CO2 and energy saving targets to meet between now and 2020. The Government’s national energy efficiency action plan sets out the measures necessary to deliver the national 20% energy saving target. One of the key measures is the retrofitting of existing buildings to achieve energy savings. The targets in this area imply upgrading the energy performance of 100,000 houses per annum and reducing the energy consumption in the public sector by 33%. These are challenging targets, but they are also great opportunities. The Government has taken measures to stimulate economic activity and unlock the untapped potential of the public sector in this area. I have agreed to allocate €9 million to improve the energy consumption of central Government buildings between now and 2015.

  Furthermore, to place the retrofit industry on a sustainable footing, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has been working closely with the private sector to create an energy efficiency fund. Good progress has been made by the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, on exploring private funding participants' interest, but as a sign of the Government’s intent, I have agreed to provide €35 million as seed capital for this fund, with a view to establishing a leveraged fund of €70 million.

  Energy retrofitting is labour intensive and provides job opportunities for our hard-pressed construction sector. We have companies in Ireland which supply much of the material for these works, so jobs will be secured and created at home by these measures. The Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, will announce details in due course.

Current Expenditure

  We all know we must reduce public expenditure. Our current levels of expenditure are no more sustainable than the property bubble that once sustained them. There is no point in trying to pretend otherwise. We must be strategic, however, in how we do this. We are not going to slash and burn essential public services to satisfy particular interests, or in response to sensationalist headlines.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We need to protect the more vulnerable in our society to the best of our ability. Accordingly, the Government has decided to raise the expenditure ceilings for next year in two Departments that deliver social values in our society. Spending in the area of social welfare and in the Department of Health will increase by €150 million in each Department.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Buy them a calculator as well.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin This means that a lower adjustment is required for those Departments than previously stated in the budgetary outlook. These increases will be funded by a number of taxation measures, as set out by the Minister for Finance, and by an increased dividend payment to the State.

Social Protection

  The social protection expenditure ceiling for next year will be more than €20.2 billion. Expenditure on social supports has an important impact on stabilising our domestic economy through supporting the overall demand for goods and services. Many of our communities depend on that spend.


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