Public services a priority in Budget 2022 – McGrath
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said there will be a number of key objectives in framing Budget 2022.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr McGrath said that it includes the priority of public services being able to resume in “as normal a way as possible” after a difficult 18 months and people being able to access services such as healthcare.
He said the increase in waiting lists and other issues that arose over the pandemic will be a priority along with securing economic recovery.
Mr McGrath said there is a strong rebound in the Irish economy, and that needs to transition into a sustainable recovery.
“When I look at all the challenges on the expenditure side of the budget, in childcare, health, education, housing, transport, capital spending, I am in a position to meet many of those needs if we have a strong economy that is delivering the type of revenues we need to meet the legitimate expectations people have.”
He also said there needs to be a period of repairing the public finances after a very large deficit last year and another one expected this year.
The minister said this will be reduced over time by carefully and gradually tapering the pandemic-related emergency expenditures and managing core expenditure in a sustainable and responsible way.
He said they have set out the overall framework within which to make those decisions but added that in the next three weeks the specific decisions have to be made.
Mr McGrath also said he accepts the rise in the cost of living is a real issue for many pensioners and many of working age.
He said the Government is conscious in the last two budgets there has not been an increase in core social welfare weekly rates and they will consider that issue in the coming weeks, adding that he is in discussions with the Social Protection Minister on her priorities.
The minister said he has to balance the reality of a rise in costs against the reality of limited resources.
He said there will be an increase in carbon tax similar to last year.
“We will compensate for the impact of that by improving the measures within social protection particularly in the area of fuel poverty,” he said.
Speaking on the same programme ahead of next month’s Budget, the head of advocacy at Age Action said one in 10 older people is at risk of poverty and one in nine suffers from material deprivation.
Celine Clarke said some pensioners who are reliant on the State pension are “struggling” and they are calling on the Government for an increase of €15 on the State pension in the upcoming Budget.
She said they want that built towards a benchmark of 34% of average earnings as this was a recommendation in the Government’s report on pension reform in 2018.
Ms Clarke said there are older people over the age of 65 who rely on the State pension and who cannot put meat or fish on the table every second day and some go without home heating at times.
She said there is a “great fear” among people of retirement and what their income will be when they retire.