DÁIL SPEECH ON SUMMER ECONOMIC STATEMENTS

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to the discussion on the summer economic programme. Unfortunately, it is another prime example of Government spin and window-dressing, without placing any real emphasis on the major challenges facing our country, which has been deprived of significant capital investment for the majority of the past decade. There is no attempt in the statement to address the decline in living standards and suffering of much of our population, to which previous speakers alluded.

I welcome the inclusion in the statement the necessary elimination of FEMPI legislation. It is well past time. We should have gotten rid of FEMPI before now. We know the tremendous negative impact it has had, especially on pensioners and across the public service. It should be a priority for the forthcoming year.

A number of speakers referred to football. In some respects, the document before me, given the day that is in it, reminds me of the great Jock Stein who led Glasgow Celtic to very successful championships in Scotland and Europe over many years. He said one can have all the plans one likes, but one obviously has to contend with the other team. Given the day that is in it, the other team may face dramatically changed economic circumstances tomorrow. We hope that will not be the case, but it could be.

I note with interest that the fiscal space is expected to be around €1 billion for 2017 and just over €11 billion over the four-year period up to 2021. I agree with earlier speakers that this seems a very restrictive space for the State and our national economy to be placed in given the investment required in areas such as health and housing. The Minister stated the Government is compliant with four of the five commitments set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government and has exceeded one of them, but the ambition of eliminating the deficit by 2018 and our debt to GDP ratio by 2021 should not be at the expense of the critical current and capital spending required by our population, given that we have had almost a decade of austerity.

The establishment of a rainy day fund was mentioned. On balance, it was a good decision years ago. The former Minister, Charlie McCreevy, established the National Pensions Reserve Fund. As an earlier speaker said, the raid on the fund and its transfer to bankrupt financial institutions has been one of the most deplorable results of the crash and the following years. I hope on this occasion a rainy day fund is ring-fenced, perhaps in the same manner as the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. It should be used for future pensions and investment in health and housing, in particular.

I hope the rainy day fund will not impact badly on projected spending in the early 2020s.

The budget strategy to allocate the available fiscal space 2:1 in favour of investment in public services over taxation reductions is a small step in the right direction. We must pick up on the deficit. Deputy Wallace suggested we need an audit of the infrastructural deficit. I mentioned the metro north plan in the context of public transport to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, a few weeks ago but we need fundamental investment in housing, health and education in particular.

I am a member of the Oireachtas Select Committee on Arrangements for Budgetary Scrutiny, which I hope will lead to the new estimates committee I proposed many times in recent Dáileanna. I am cognisant of the need to equality proof, gender proof, regional proof and carbon proof budgets, and to do so with greater foresight than was the case with year-on-year planning. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, will remember some budgets where poverty proofing amounted to an exercise in box ticking. We must get away from that and have real interactions. We had no input whatsoever into the summer economic statement, as is evident from the contributions of Members. I hope this is the last year that will be the case. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, came before the committee but I was attending another meeting. There must be a real willingness in the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance to engage on a partnership basis with the new budgetary committee. Yesterday, we heard from the equivalent parliamentary budget office in the UK to the one we hope to establish about how it interacts with the treasury committee there. In future there should be real engagement from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance in terms of incorporating the stability programme update, SPU, figures from the spring statement into the summer statement, and again in October, so that from now on budgets will no longer be a big mystery and surprise on the day, as we will all have taken part in them and all the suggestions the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has heard from Deputies will form part of the budget.