Irish budget approval 'urgent'

Irish budget approval 'urgent'

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Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen TD (left) and European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn met earlier this month

Ireland should approve next year’s budget as soon as possible, Europe’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn has urged.

He told Irish MEPs in Strasbourg every day that passes without recovery measures in place added to the uncertainty over the current crisis.

The Commissioner welcomed Wednesday’s publication of the Irish four-year plan – the “cornerstone” of any recovery programme – and reassured the MEPs that the Commission is convinced the “fundamentals” of the Irish economy are sound.

But he made clear he would prefer a swifter 2011 budget launch date than the planned unveiling on December 7.

In Brussels, a Commission spokesman emphasised the Commissioner’s concern: “Every day that passes brings more uncertainty,” he said.

“But the Irish economy has strong fundamentals, and decisive action should restore robust and sustainable growth, which will safeguard economic and social cohesion.”

But the spokesman emphasised: “There are still no figures for a bailout. I keep seeing firm figures in some newspapers, which is surprising as there are no figures, and I think some papers are going to have to make corrections.”

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan also stressed the need to pass the budget: “This budget is needed for Ireland. We need to pass this budget. We need to publish our plan tomorrow, which we will be doing.

“The plan has been finalised, the budget will be introduced and the necessary funding for the budget will be obtained. They are the priorities for this country at present.”

Asked if Prime Minister Brian Cowen would lead Fianna Fail into a general election, Mr Lenihan said: “Of course.” An embattled Mr Cowen, who defied calls for a snap election, said he wanted to stay in power to pass the crucial six billion euro (£5.1 billion) savings in next month’s budget.

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