Yesterday afternoon at the National Economic Dialogue we were being asked what choices we would make if we were in the Cabinet. It's easy to stand at the side-lines and pontificate on what needs to be done. It's harder if you are performing the balancing act of changing taxes and spending on a wide variety of essential, high demand services.
Fortunately, we are now in a time of opportunities.
I attended the afternoon workshop chaired by Tanaiste Joan Burton, on 'Managing Competing Economic and Social Priorities for a Fair Society'. The group were reminded that there are some additional monies available for Budget 2016, albeit limited. Ireland is not just in recovery mode but reconstruction mode, given the successive cuts to local services and public supports since 2009.
Robert Watt, Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure, set out the money needed for investing in public transport, schools, hospitals and social housing among others. The figures are big, and the money for these needs to be found from somewhere - continually.Do we raise - or at least not cut - taxes as was set out the Government's Spring Statement? Do we create new savings bonds for infrastructure, or introduce further user charges?
It's easier to talk about motherhood and apple pie; however budgeting is a matter of making hard choices, we were reminded. Hard for whom: the family struggling to hold onto their rented accommodation or the international executive who feels the marginal rate of tax is too high?
More National Economic Dialogue later....