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Ministers say December Budgets could be a thing of the past

Brendan Howlin says bringing Ireland into line with European moves could see Budgets in October, with two months of debate.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

YESTERDAY’S BUDGET could be the last in Irish history to be delivered in December, the ministers responsible for delivering it have said.

Brendan Howlin said the government was looking to address the annual habit of having to announce cost-saving measures in the run-up to Christmas, one of the most expensive times of the year.

Michael Noonan told RTÉ Radio 1 that proposals currently before the European Parliament – the so-called ‘two pack’ – would see Eurozone countries required to submit their annual budgets to Brussels to ensure they do not breach deficit guidelines.

This is a follow-on to the terms of the Fiscal Compact treaty agreed by Ireland and Eurozone countries earlier this year, which places legal limits on the size of a country’s budget deficits, relative to the size of its own economy.

The two-pack measures would mean countries would submit their draft Budgets for oversight by October, so that countries which have breached their agreements can be asked to amend them.

Noonan said the government had yet to decide on the exact impact this would have for Ireland.

Ministers were still “wondering whether to bring it in as a draft” in October, and allow two months of debate and reaction to its terms, or to bring the actual Budget process forward by two months so that the version being submitted to Europe was the final edition.

“I’m not too sure our system would sustain a draft budget announced in October, and everybody ganging up to stop it between then and December,” he said.

Howlin added that the programme for government contained a commitment to give the Dáil greater involvement in the Budget-making process, and this was something he intended to develop in the coming years.

The comments followed remarks by Pat Kenny that many of the Budget’s most difficult measures, like the property tax, had been leaked to the media in advance of the Budget so as to soften the public and blunt the impact of the government’s actions.

Noonan said it was “right to be critical” of the leaking culture, saying this was “not the way to do business”.

“As we get closer to the date, the circle of people who actually know what’s in the Budget gets very wide,” he conceded.

Read: Counting the pennies: where your tax money will go in 2013

More: TheJournal.ie‘s coverage of Budget 2013

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Gavan Reilly

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