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Address at the Annual Dinner of the Chambers of Commerce in Ireland


Addressing the Annual Dinner of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland tonight (Wednesday 12th November 1997) the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern T.D., said "there are two main features of our economic policy - keeping strict discipline in our national finances and reducing the burden of personal and corporate taxation. That is the message we put before the people in the General Election, that is the message we wrote into our Government Action Programme for the Millennium, and that is what we will deliver in Budget '97, and succeeding budgets.

The terms of the recently adopted EU Stability and Growth Pact, will require us to deliver budgets which are close to balance, or in surplus, in normal economic conditions. Current economic conditions are better than normal, and the case for running a budget surplus in these favourable circumstances is compelling. The medium-term outlook for the economy, also points to the need to run budget surpluses now. The Irish economy is growing at a rate which cannot last indefinitely. It is prudent to plan for that eventuality.

Looking further into the future, it is possible that EU structural funds to this country after 1999, will not be on the same scale as in recent years. However, the Irish economy will still have very significant investment needs. We will have to maintain the essential infrastructural investment that our strongly growing economy requires, while of course respecting the fiscal disciplines of EMU.

This underlines the need to adopt more ambitious budgetary targets now, in order to allow us address our future needs from a position of financial strength.

We have a great deal of preparation to put in place for participation in EMU, and I would like to see a lot more evidence of detailed planning for January 1999. Last year the Department of Finance set up a Euro Changeover Group, which includes representatives from the trade unions, business, and professional and trade groups and, I am glad to say, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. With the help of the Euro Changeover Group, a National Changeover Plan was published earlier this year, which sets out the arrangements which will be made by the Department of Finance, the Central Bank, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Revenue Commissioners and Government Departments generally, as well as by banks and building societies and the Irish Stock Exchange, in order to facilitate a smooth and orderly changeover across the economy".

12 November 1997