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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Jun 1952

Vol. 132 No. 12

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Adverse Trade Balance.

asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the favourable trend demonstrated in the first five months of this year in the figures for the adverse trade balance, he will review the figure of £50,000,000 given by him in his Budget statement as the estimate for the deficit in the balance of payments for this year; and if he will state what he estimates the deficit in the balance of payments will be in the current year.

The published trade returns show that, by comparison with last year, the adverse trade balance has been reduced as follows:—

£ million










Total: £13.6 million

These figures show that it was only in April and May that the reduction in the trade deficit as compared with 1951 became significant. It is too early yet to say whether this much needed improvement will continue. If, as I hope, it does, and if net invisible income comes up to our expectations, the over-all deficit in our balance of payments this year may be less than £50,000,000. It is of great national importance that this hope should be realised and to this end continued restraint in spending on imported goods is essential.

I might point out that the figure of £50,000,000 was given in my Budget speech as an indication of "the balance of payments deficit which we faced at the beginning of 1952." In that speech I emphasised the urgent need for reducing the deficit. I said:—

"In order to give us time to increase our capacity to pay for a high level of imports, the deficit in our external payments must be reduced to manageable dimensions. The two sides of our external account must be brought much closer together. That means trying to increase exports and reduce the need for imports by stimulating agriculture and industrial production. It means conserving and promoting our tourist industry, as provided for in legislation recently before the House. But these are, in varying degrees, long-term remedies and the problem is urgent. Therefore, for immediate and significant results, it is necessary to import less and specifically to import fewer consumer goods."

I went on to refer to the minimum reductions we hoped to achieve in our deficits with the dollar area and with the rest of the non-sterling world in the second half of 1952 and I ended by saying:—

"The Government is opposed to the introduction of any general system of import control. It prefers that the public should increase its saving, lend more to the Government for domestic capital development and economise as it thinks fit in its purchases of consumer goods from abroad, but especially from the non-sterling world. This is the only safe and sure way of achieving the reduction in the balance of payments deficit which the national interest demands."

These words are still valid. The reduction in the trade deficit for April and May provides a stimulus and an encouragement rather than a reason for complacency or relaxation.

Would the Minister be good enough to say, in respect of the improvement in the trade balance for the first five months of this year, whether that is primarily due to an increase in exports or to a decrease in imports?

That is a separate question.

I thought you would not like to answer that one.

The Deputy was not responsible for increased exports. He left us fewer cows and cattle. He left us with 500,000 acres less under tillage and he killed every scheme that was there to increase productivity on the land.

Why not answer my question instead of getting vexed?

I am not getting vexed. I am just being a little bit emphatic to get through the Deputy's thick hide.