The Irish government is set to increase spending to counter the dual threats of Brexit and the pandemic, as new restrictions threaten to disrupt a nascent economic recovery.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will set the 2021 budget from about 1pm in Dublin, a week after the coalition government moved the country to a Level 3 blockade, meaning most bars, restaurants and hotels are closed again. . Among the measures being introduced are a € 5 billion ($ 5.9 billion) fund to deal with the virus and Brexit, more health care spending and a sales tax cut for the hospitality industry.
Donohoe’s strategy contrasts with Ireland’s recent experience in economic crisis a decade ago, when the government cut spending and raised taxes to win the trust of international lenders. The coronavirus response is echoing across Europe as countries strive to protect businesses and jobs amid a resurgence of cases.
“Like the others, the Irish government will eventually face the difficult task of reducing the size of government spending,” said Dermot O’Leary, chief economist atSaid Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin. “But with major immediate threats to the Irish economy, this is a time to keep our footing on the fiscal accelerator.”
The domestic economy is set to shrink by 6.5% this year, according to the finance ministry. However, the wider economy is protected by a large number of American companies that use Dublin as their European headquarters. Overall, GDP is likely to shrink by only 2.5% this year, the ministry said.
Still, Ireland faces threats outside the virus, mainly the prospect of destroying the UK by the European Union without a trade deal. That would cut Irish economic growth by half next year, according to ESRI, a Dublin-based think tank.
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