Go ndeonófar suim nach mó na £56,200 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1969, le haghaidh Tuarastail agus Costais Roinn an Taoisigh.
The Vote for my Department consists almost entirely of salaries, wages and allowances totalling £51,850 out of a total provision of £56,200 for the current year. There is an increase this year of £5,500 under subhead A, a sum of £6,000 having been added for the necessary expansion of the Government Information Bureau to meet presentday needs. Proposals as to the numbers and grading of the additional officers have not yet been finally formulated. Two clerk-typist posts have also been added to the staff of my Department. The travelling expenses provision has also been increased to cover increasing expense on official visits abroad. The net increase in the Vote is £5,950, and savings resulting from the reorganisation of subordinate staff have offset the increased provision for the Government Information Bureau. There is a decrease of almost £28,000 in the allied services provision. The expensive part of the reconstruction of the bedroom block in the State Apartments in Dublin Castle has been completed. So much for the Vote for my Department.
In recent years it has been customary for the Taoiseach in introducing the Estimate for his Department to give a short survey of the current economic trends and future prospects, and I propose to follow that precedent. I think we can claim with justification that we have made a quick and satisfactory recovery from the economic difficulties that faced us and, indeed, many other European countries, and countries throughout the world, in 1965 and 1966. Preliminary figures for 1967 indicate an eight per cent increase in national income at current prices, and a 4¼ per cent growth rate, or increase in the volume of gross national product. For 1968, a growth rate of about four per cent was anticipated. At this stage with half the year gone, the indications are that there will be an increase of 4½ per cent in the growth rate for 1968. Only Italy at 5½ per cent, Norway at five per cent and the Netherlands at 4¾ per cent, among the western countries, showed a higher growth rate than Ireland in 1967. During this year the other countries in Europe, for example, France at 3¾ per cent, Denmark at 3¼ per cent, the United Kingdom at one per cent, West Germany at minus ½ per cent as well as the United States of America at 2½ per cent, showed a lower growth rate than Ireland. It must be remembered that in the more affluent countries to sustain a high continuing growth rate entails a very much greater effort.
However, our primary concern is with our own growth rate. Rates of 4¼ per cent indicated for 1967, and 4½ per cent now anticipated for 1968, are I think an endorsement of the Government's economic policies. Between 1958 and 1966, the percentage growth in Ireland was 33 as compared with 31 in the United Kingdom, and 51 per cent is the average for the countries of the EEC. It must be remembered, however, that in the European Economic Community, industry contributes 5½ times as much as agriculture to gross domestic product at factor cost. In Ireland the corresponding figure is 1¾ times. It can readily be seen, therefore, why the difficulties in the way of expansion of agricultural output are such important considerations to our economy.
Output of the transportable goods industry in Ireland rose by 86 per cent between 1958 and 1967. In the Common Market countries, industrial production in the same years rose by 71 per cent but, because of the great importance of industry compared with agriculture in the economy of these countries the overall gross national product of the Community rose by a substantially higher percentage than ours did. Industrial output in 1967 showed an increase of 9 per cent following an increase of 4.7 per cent in 1966. This almost doubled the increase. The Report of the Quarterly Industrial Inquiry for the March quarter, 1968, issued last week, indicated that for that quarter output was up by nearly nine per cent over the first quarter of 1967.
Agricultural income showed a substantial increase in 1967. Sales off the farm, plus consumption of own produce on the farm, rose by £29.4 million over 1966, and gross output, making due allowances for changes of stock, rose by £16.7 million. Net output rose by £13.2 million and net income by £11.8 million. Among the contributing factors were an increase of £19½ million in cattle output, £8 million in milk supplied for industry, over £3 million extra for wheat, £2 million extra for sugar beet and £1.4 million less paid by farmers in rates. These were offset by a fall of £2 million in pigs output and £1.3 million in wool output. By the beginning of 1968, cattle and sheep numbers were down by 2.3 per cent but pig numbers were up by ten per cent.
I now come to a review of our international trade and payments. In 1967, exports increased by £40 million and outstripped the increase in imports, so our import excess fell to £106 million in that year. Net invisible exports have been showing a steady increase over recent years and in 1967 for the first time exceeded the outward balance in visible trade by £10 million. This contributed to the very high net external assets figure in December, 1967, of £295.1 million. This is an indication of the value of tourism which is probably the greatest contributor to our inward balance in invisible trade, and is a justification for the efforts the Government have been making over the years to expand our tourist business.
In the first five months of this year, the value of imports was £202.4 million. This was £36.1 million more than in the corresponding period in 1967, indicating that devaluation is making itself felt on import prices. For the first five months of this year, the figure for total exports, at £128.9 million, is nearly £20 million more than in the corresponding period in 1967. Consequently the import excess at £73.4 million for the period January to May, is over £16 million higher in 1968 than last year. The Government, of course, anticipated that events would be likely to take this course because of increased domestic demand, devaluation of sterling and, of course, the restraints on domestic demand in Britain. I will refer later to the necessity of ensuring that we keep a watch on domestic demand in the months to come. By the end of March, 1968, when imports had increased by about £15 million in all, £10.3 million of the increase arose on materials for further production; £3.8 million in consumption and goods and £1.1 million in capital goods.
Consumption goods ready for use imported in the first quarter of 1968 represented 22.2 per cent of the value of total imports as compared with recent annual figures varying from 19.4 per cent to 21.9 per cent. This indicates a very small upward trend. However, I think we must watch this trend because there are certain dangers inherent in it, especially now that some wage increases have been negotiated: other wage increases are in the pipe-line.
It is well known that, following a wage increase, there is usually an increased demand for consumer goods. Unfortunately, in most instances, these consumer goods are, to a very high proportion, imported goods. Therefore, the people who enjoy the benefits of increased wages ought to ensure, in the interests of the economy generally and in their own interests, that they avoid the purchase of imported consumer goods and, rather, concentrate on the purchase of home produced goods as much as possible.
By May of this year, the net external assets figure had fallen by £26 million but, taking into account that the import excess on international trade had increased over the period January-May, 1968, by over £16 million, this fall is not a disturbing one. Indeed, it may be contended that the external assets standing at that figure might have been too high, having regard to the need for the generation of more economic development at home.
Our trade with Britain has increased substantially this year. At the end of April, the latest date for which we have figures, imports from Britain increased by £9 million or 15 per cent over the corresponding period in 1967, while exports to Britain increased by over £8 million or 16 per cent in the same period. If we add trade with the Six Counties, imports increased by £9½ million or 14 per cent while total exports increased by £10½ million or 17 per cent, leaving the import excess £1 million lower on United Kingdom trade in January-April, 1968, than it was in the same period of 1967.
The conclusion to be drawn from these figures, overall, is that the Free Trade Area Agreement with Britain is stimulating trade between our two countries. Our situation vis-à-vis the EEC is unfortunately not so favourable. Over the months January-April, 1968, imports from the EEC increased by £6 million, that is, 29 per cent. That increase, of course, may be attributed to some degree to devaluation. Exports to imports from the EEC increased by £6 the EEC increased by £1.7 million—20 per cent extra—as compared with January-April, 1967. The import excess, as a result, is over £4 million a month—higher for the first four months of 1968 than it was for the corresponding period of 1967.
We have, of course, a valuable export in lead ores and concentrates over a number of years past. The value of these exports to the EEC increased by £1 million but, on the other hand, exports during the first four months of 1967, which were valued at £1 million, were not repeated in 1968. These exports included, amongst other things, milk, dried and powdered. Unfortunately, that is another product which is effectively excluded from the Common Market as a result of the Common Market agricultural policy.
As everybody is aware, Common Market countries themselves now have what they call "a mountain of butter" because of the increased milk production within the Community. They are finding tremendous difficulty in disposing of it not only within the Community but in markets abroad. We have all heard of butter being offered in markets which are net importers at about £100 a ton which works out at something like 1s per 1b. It is obvious that this will create a tremendous problem for us, for the Exchequer and for the economy in general. As I said a few weeks ago in the House, every effort will be made to explore the possibility of expanding exports to the Community but the prospects of expanding agricultural exports in particular are not promising in the short-term in view of the Community's imports restrictions.
I now turn to employment. Insured employment increased substantially in the past year. If we take the number of insurance cards current in January, 1968, they show that a record number of 717,737 was reached or 9,279 more than in January, 1967. Details of the sales of insurance stamps in the March quarter, 1968, came to hand last week. The average weekly insured employment, as disclosed by these weekly insurance stamp sales in 1967-68, worked out at 528,600 or 11,000 more than in 1966-67. Consequently, the average duration of insured employment also increased over the previous year.
Deputies will have received last week the Quarterly Industrial Inquiry Table for the March quarter, 1968, which indicated that the average number of people engaged in manufacturing industry increased by 1,550 over the year 1967-68 while, for all industries producing transportable goods the increase was 1,775.