Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has defended the Government’s financial supports during Covid-19.
Schemes like the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Covid Restriction Support Scheme meant that “tens of thousands” of people were able to go back to work with the easing of Level 5 restrictions, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
The public finances were €8.9 billion in the red last month as the second wave of Covid lockdowns saw spending on pandemic-related supports rise and tax receipts slide.
This compares to a surplus of just €3.3 billion this time last year, and marks a year-on-year deterioration of €12.3 billion.
The latest exchequer returns, published by the Department of Finance, show the Government took in €51.1 billion in taxes in the year to the end of November. This was 6.9 per cent or €3.7 billion down on last year.
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When asked about deficit figures, the Minister said that while the figure in November had been high, it was below the figure that had been expected earlier in the year. The level of financial support for the country had been approved by the Fiscal Council, he added.
The situation now was different from in 2010, he said. “The ghosts of the last crisis will always be with us, but the decisions we took in 2020 were different from a decade ago.”
Going into the Covid crisis the country’s finances had been in a good condition. The country could respond now in a way it could not do a decade ago, he said.
When asked about the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to March, given that it could take longer for vaccination programme to be completed, Mr Donohoe said that a decision would have to be made in 2021 when progress could be gauged.