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Irish Republic prepares for tough budget

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Irish Republic prepares for tough budget

Post by nirvana on Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:56 am

Irish Republic prepares for tough budget
Gardai stand next to a cherry picker covered with a number of slogans attacking politicians and the banking sector to protest outside the gates of Leinster House, Dublin on Budget day Big protests are expected outside the Irish Parliament after the budget later
Continue reading the main story
Global Economy

* Europe's bad debt 'dominoes'?
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* Q&A: Why bond markets matter
* Q&A: Irish finances explained

The Irish Republic is set to unveil more details of a severe austerity budget later.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is planning an initial 6bn euros (£5bn; $8bn) of cost cuts in the toughest budget in the country's history.

It is part of a deal to secure an 85bn-euro bail-out from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Despite the Fianna Fail/Green party coalition's slim majority, the budget is expected to be passed.

If the budget is cleared by parliament, it will trigger the first tranche of bail-out funds from the EU and IMF.

The government previously announced cuts under a four-year National Recovery Plan unveiled two weeks ago.

Dublin is looking to save about 15bn euros over the period as it struggles to balance the books, with the biggest cuts of the plan coming this year - between 2010/11.

The Irish Republic's generous welfare budget is a prime target for the axe.

Child benefit is being slashed, and social welfare spending - state pensions excluded - is being cut by 5%.

Thousands of public sector jobs will go. Civil service pay freezes will be imposed, and reform of the tax system will bring thousands of Irish people into the tax net. The minimum wage will be lowered.
Continue reading the main story
image of Joe Lynam Joe Lynam BBC News, Dublin

Dublin is a very cold place these days and the mood of the people matches the weather.

Politicians from the ruling Fianna Fail coalition usually enjoy a friendly and gregarious relationship with voters on all sides but that is no longer the case.

Voters are champing at the bit to get to the ballot box and punish this government.

That urge will intensify later when even further swingeing cuts are announced in the budget for 2011 including a de facto rise in income tax by dramatically widening the tax net as well as significant cuts in social welfare.

That the populace must endure this hardship so that failed Irish banks can be propped up is likely to live long in memories.

* Irish nightmare before Christmas

Mr Cowen says the cuts are necessary because the Irish Republic was living way beyond its means.

Surging bond yields - the interest rates Dublin pays to borrow money - forced the government to ask for a bail-out on 28 November, as the Republic could no longer afford to raise money in the financial markets.

Mr Cowen, with his poll rating at a record low, needs to push the budget through to avoid having to call a snap election.

Failure to do so could plunge the Republic into a deeper crisis, one that could help spread contagion throughout the heavily-indebted eurozone.

Mr Cowen's government only has a majority in the Dail, or lower house of parliament, thanks the support of two independent MPs.

One of these MPs, Michael Lowry, pledged his support for the budget on Monday evening.

"This budget is going to be harsh. It's going to be extremely difficult," Mr Lowry told the BBC.

"People will be angry," he said, "but if we are to survive into the future and if we are to restore our economy, these difficult and harsh decisions have to be made.,"

According to reports, the other independent MP, Jackie Healy-Rae is expected to follow Mr Lowry's lead.

And it is not clear if all opposition MPs will oppose the budget. There has been talk of some MPs abstaining from the vote, strengthening Mr Cowen's hand.

Opposition parties have published their own budget proposals ahead of a general election next year.

But with stringent EU/IMF fiscal targets to hit, most politicians accept that there will be little scope to deviate greatly from today's plans.

But it is not essential that all parts of the budget are cleared on Tuesday.

The vote will be conducted via four separate ballots, and the budget must be passed within four months of Mr Lenihan presenting it to parliament.

A large demonstration outside the Irish Parliament is expected immediately after the budget.

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