Cate McCurry, PA
The Government has a number of key objectives that will frame next year’s budget, the Minister for Public Expenditure has said.
Michael McGrath said that among its priorities is the need to have public services to be able to resume in as “normal way as possible” following a challenging 18 months.
The budget, which will be published next month, is also expected to include an increase in social welfare rates.
Mr McGrath told RTÉ’s This Week programme that many people have had difficulty in accessing healthcare services, which he said is a priority for Government.
“We will have a number of key objectives really in framing Budget 2022 and among those will be the need to have a period where our public services can resume to function in as normal way as possible after what has been a really difficult 18 months for our country,” Mr McGrath said.
“So many people have had difficulty in accessing certain services, particularly in health care. We have seen increases in waiting lists and obviously that will be a priority for Government.
“The whole issue of maintaining good public services through to 2022 and addressing many of the issues that arose over the course of the pandemic and of course securing economic recovery.”
He said the country is seeing a “strong rebound” in the economy.
“We need to see that transition into a sustainable recovery,” he added.
“When we look at all of the challenges that I have to try and manage on the expenditure side of the budget in child care, health, education housing, transport, capital spending, I’m in a position to meet many of those needs if we have a strong economy that is delivering the type of revenues that we need to meet the legitimate expectations that people have.”
He also said that Ireland needs to enter a period to start repairing the public finances.
Mr McGrath said there was a “very large deficit” in last year’s budget, which will be followed by another large deficit this year.
“We need to start reducing it and we do that over time, carefully and gradually tapering the pandemic-related emergency expenditures and managing our core expenditure in a sustainable and responsible way,” the Fianna Fáil minister added.
He also acknowledged the rising cost of living, particularly among pensioners.
Mr McGrath would not confirm that social welfare rates will rise in next month’s budget, but said the Government is aware there has not been a hike in more than two years.
“We acknowledge that in the last two budgets there has not been an increase in core social welfare weekly rates and we will consider that issue in the next number of weeks,” he added.