Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
We will await the deliberations and formal advice from the Attorney General. As I repeated before, this country, unfortunately, is in a programme which will continue for two further years. There is nothing in the fiscal compact that affects the figures and structures set out as part of our programme. As Deputy Boyd Barrett is aware, we have had four serious analyses by the troika and have measured up in those, although it has been difficult for our people.
When the Deputy speaks about condemning the country to ten years of austerity, the fiscal compact requires countries to reduce their debt to GDP ratio to 60% over the next 20 years, and the formula is to be worked out in respect of each individual country. I remind Deputy Boyd Barrett that far from relying on austerity to do that job, we will rely on export growth potential, which is central to yesterday's jobs action plan. Between 1991 and 2000, our debt increased from €36 billion to €40 billion but our debt to GDP ratio in the same period declined from 95% to 35%; that was not because of austerity but because of strong growth.
The Government has a responsibility to deal with the public finance problem but the opportunity to deal with the other issues will rely mainly on growth. That is why we have put jobs and growth central to the agenda for the European Heads of Government meetings from now on. That will start in the middle of April with the task force dealing with youth unemployment for countries where the rate of unemployment of young people is above the European average; unfortunately, Ireland is part of that group with a figure of 29%.
We are in this programme until the end of 2013 and the export-driven potential of what is to be unleashed when the action programme is implemented to improve the atmosphere and the environment for business to work and create jobs is very far removed from the sort of weekly rant from the Deputy, with everybody being scarified and driven into penury by a programme of austerity. It is far from that.