9 DFómh 2020, 15.58

The Pre-Budget Report of the Budgetary Oversight Committee has highlighted the need for the state to continue to invest in the economy in a manner that, reduces economic inequality, supports SMEs and ensures that long-term employment impacts are minimized.

In addition, the Report recognises the important role that social protection supports have played in reducing the impact that Covid-19 measures have had on household income.

The Committee has called for improvements in the quality of data and information provided to the Committee in the run up to the Budget. In particular, the report cites the absence of a Summer Economic Statement or a Mid-Year Expenditure Report, and the difficulties that this poses for Oireachtas scrutiny.

Committee Chair, Neasa Hourigan TD said: “The Committee recognises the uncertain environment in which Budget 2021 is being framed. While the Government will borrow a significant quantum in 2021, it is recognised that it may not be enough to meet all of the demands across the various sectors. In this report, the Committee has sought to make recommendations that will guide the Ministers in their pre-Budget decision making.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, focusing on improving the quality of pre-budget documentation available to enable scrutiny, and also on improving the quality of information provided alongside the budget to measure performance. In addition, increasing investment across a number of sectors, avoiding any increases in income inequality and reducing the level of unemployment are the key themes across the Committee’s recommendations.

The Committee notes that the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 Crisis has not been felt uniformly across all sectors of society and recommends a programme of medium to long term funding for education supports targeted at the retraining of skilled workers in impacted sectors and areas/groups with higher youth unemployment.

Other recommendations include:

 

  • That the current relaxation of the Stability and Growth Pact provides an opportunity for the Government to invest in areas, such as education, housing, healthcare and communications, energy and transport infrastructure, and other measures that will narrow inequality.
  • Careful consideration should be given to ensuring that measures included in Budget 2021 counteract reductions in the pandemic unemployment payment in order to support the incomes of those who have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic. Given the particular pressures of the pandemic a focus on funding for the provision of basic services in healthcare and associated services, the provision of public housing and measures to protect the mental health and general wellbeing of the population, particularly vulnerable groups and young people, would be expected.
  • The Committee recognises the impact that capital investment can have in creating jobs and in growing the productive capacity of the economy. Therefore, the Committee recommends that capital expenditure should be increased in the areas providing the greatest level of social, economic and regional development in line with climate action.
  • The Committee recommends that the Government should commit to publishing a Summer Economic Statement every year, regardless of the circumstances. Further, greater pre-Budget information should be furnished to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight in order to allow it undertake effective scrutiny in advance of the Budget.
  • The Committee believes that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) must be replaced with an enhanced wage subsidy scheme to support workers and retain employment.

 

Deputy Hourigan added: “While the Budgetary focus will rightly be on supporting the economy from the threats of Covid-19 and Brexit, it is important that we do not lose sight of the importance of making progress towards our other public policy challenges, in particular climate action, regional development, housing and health. The Committee has recognised the significant spill-overs, that can stimulate the economy, arising from public investment in these areas. The relaxation of the EU’s Fiscal Rules provides us with an opportunity in this regard.”

Deputy Hourigan concluded: “The Committee’s scrutiny was conducted in a much shorter time-window that would normally be the case. Considering this, I would like to thank all of our stakeholders for taking the time to input into the process and I look forward to strengthening our relations over the future budget cycles.”

 

Read the full report here.

 

Deputy Neasa Hourigan with Pre-Budget Report

Deputy Neasa Horgan with Pre-Budget Report

 

 

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Committee membership

Teachtaí

Solidarity - People Before Profit

Independent

Sinn Féin

Neasa Hourigan - Cathaoirleach

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Fianna Fáil

Labour Party

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin