Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Committee on Budgetary Oversight
Pre-Budget 2022 Scrutiny: Irish Fiscal Advisory Council
Mr. Sebastian Barnes:
The Deputy is absolutely right on the capital expenditure. That is one of the reasons we are interested in exactly how the capital is going to be done. That this is in large part capital spending makes a big difference. If the Government said it was going to run a deficit of this size just for everyday current spending, we would be much more concerned than we are when it is for public investment. As we say in the report, there is a strong case for public investment at the moment, both because there are big needs and because interest costs are low.
What is important is that other factors must be looked at. One is the capacity of the construction sector and the economy to deliver in a sustainable way these kinds of increases in investment and the deficit financing of it. The other one is, of course, the sustainable level of the public finances. Ireland enters this with a lot of debt. If public debt today was 50% of national income then we would be having a different conversation about this. The concern comes from the fact we start from a very high level of debt inherited not particularly from building up the capital stock but from the pandemic-----