[Sinn Fein]

14 November 2002

Estimates confirm Government ``confidence trick'' - Ó Caoláin

Reacting to the publication of the Book of Estimates, Sinn Fein Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:

``The Book of Estimates confirms the fact that Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats pulled a massive confidence trick on the electorate before the General Election. The huge gap in the public finances did not appear out of the sky this summer. Preparations were being made in the Department of Finance before the General Election for such a shortfall. Yet the Government parties assured the people there was no deficit and there would be no cutbacks.

``There is a Capital Expenditure cutback of ¤726,000,000 - a 6% cutback on 2002 estimates. While there is a 2% increase in the current spending figures, this is less than half the current rate of inflation which will mean a decrease in real terms, badly affecting, as the Taoiseach has already admitted, some of the least well off in our society.

``The 6% increase in the Health budget falls far short of the current rate of medical inflation which is at somewhere in excess of 10%.

``The Taoiseach has confirmed that the promised extension of the Medical Card to 200,000 people in 2003 will not now be delivered. But it must be remembered that people on low income have been waiting throughout the so-called Celtic Tiger years to receive the promised benefit of extended medical card cover. Now they are being betrayed again. Similarly, schools which have been waiting for years for new build and repair works, are being asked to wait even longer.

``Minister Harney's confirmation that there will be a massive reduction of some 5,000 CE places in 2003 is a further blow to people on the margins of our society and to the community sector.

``The estimates include within them some serious cuts in spending which will affect the delivery of vital services on the ground. For example at a time when we need to invest in indigenous industry the funds for Enterprise Ireland, Shannon Development and County Enterprise Boards are to be cut by 18%, 30% and 13% respectively. Cuts in funding to the IDA and Enterprise Ireland must give rise to great concern to people in those parts of the country which did not benefit during the boom years. What chance major investment in those marginalised counties and communities in the light of these cuts?

``In the Social and Family Affairs area the Employment Support Services and Family Income Budget are to be cut by 31% and 18%.

``Once again the government have reached for the scalpel without real consideration being given to their spending strategies. We need a comprehensive time limited review of government spending. Have these estimates been poverty proofed?''

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