04 October 2008

"Tough Budget" discussed by the Irish Cabinet

A long and painstaking special pre-budget meeting of the Irish Cabinet has ended this evening - less than two hours ago - at Government Buildings (left) in Dublin.

It is understood that while there will be contacts between ministers in the coming days, there will not be another formal meeting until Tuesday, when ministers are likely to sign off on final decisions for the budget a week later.

Each year minsters hold a weekend meeting to sign off on budget decision, but the scale of the crisis means that this was the second such meeting this year.
The focus was on achieving massive savings in public spending, but ministers also have to consider ways of raising additional income through taxes.

On their way in to the meeting this morning, a number of ministers repeated that in terms of budget cuts nothing was being ruled in or out.

John Gormley (right), the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (and leader of the Green Party) said that major cuts across all departments were likely when the budget is announced on October 14th.

Defence Minister Willie O'Dea (left) said it would be the toughest budget we have seen, but tough budgets in the past had succeeded in turning the country around.

Today's special cabinet meeting came on the backdrop of the worst exchequer returns for years. The government has already held a number of such meetings, but the sheer scale of its task became even more evident with this weeks third quarter exchequer figures. They show a government deficit of € 9.4 billion and the need to borrow € 11.5 billion.

There will be more discussions before delivery of what promises to be the worst budget in 20 years, as the government tries to strike a balance between maintaining front line services and jobs and the implementation of drastic savings.

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