I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 25 together.
On 22 November, the European Monetary Institute published a report on progress towards convergence in member states of the European Union in accordance with Article 7 of its statute. The EMI gave a positive assessment of Ireland's performance on convergence. It acknowledged our good record on inflation, interest rates and the public finances, including the fact that Ireland is one of only three member states deemed in 1995 not to have an excessive deficit. The report also notes that, in 1995, Ireland's forecast general government deficit will once again be below the Treaty reference value of 3 per cent of GDP. In fact, Ireland's deficit has been below 3 per cent of GDP every year since and including 1989. The report also acknowledges the continuing reduction in Ireland's debt-GDP ratio, which is forecast to fall to 86 per cent in 1995. This represents a decline of almost 32 percentage points since 1986. Furthermore, Ireland is the only member state which will have a lower debt-GDP ratio this year than in 1991.
Overall, the report concludes that a majority of member states do not currently satisfy all the criteria and that progress towards convergence is not sufficient. In particular, the report found the public finances in most member states to be far from satisfactory.
The EMI also addressed, in respect of all members states, the risks affecting future progress towards convergence. On Ireland, it noted that the Irish pound's exchange rate remains below the ERM central parity against the strongest currencies. The EMI also referred to a possible effect on inflation stemming from our continuing high economic growth and expressed concern about a recent deterioration in cyclically-adjusted budget balances.
These remarks must be viewed in their proper context. Ireland was not singled out for criticism. For example the EMI also cautions Germany, the EU's strongest economy, on inflation and the budget deficit. The EMI's comments on fluctuations in our exchange rate reflect the impact on a number of currencies, including the French franc and Danish krone as well as the Irish pound, of US dollar and associated sterling weakness and the appreciation of the Deutsche Mark. The Irish pound continues to trade comfortably within the ERM and has actually appreciated modestly in trade-weighted terms this year.
Regarding the comments on inflation, I remind Deputies of our excellent record on inflation in recent years, which has been maintained during a period of sustained economic growth.
The EMI's assessment of our budget deficit is based on figures which include the full cash cost of equal treatment payments in 1995, amounting to £200 million. While the cyclically-adjusted deficit can be a useful indicator of the conduct of fiscal policy, it is a somewhat controversial measure of fiscal performance and, therefore, its importance should not be over emphasised. In this context, we have some reservations about the Commission estimates of Ireland's cyclically-adjusted deficit, on which the EMI assessment is based.