The Budget and Book of Estimates – what awaits us?

On Tuesday of this week we will know our fate for the coming year. Or rather, we’ll have a bit more information about our fate. Of course we all know the difficulties faced by the Government in putting some order back into the public finances after the major erosion just experienced of tax revenues. And we have been told to expect that we will be badly hit.

For those who may not be aware of the distinction, on Tuesday the Government will announce both the Budget for 2009 and the Book of Estimates. The former deals with changes to fiscal policy and related matters, while the latter sets out what the Government proposes to spend from tax revenues in the coming year. In the past, the two were announced separately, with the Estimates coming first, followed a few weeks later by the Budget. Last year the Government put both together in one announcement, and this year the same was planned again, and was to take place in December. But because of the rapidly deteriorating position of the public finances, and because of the global financial and economic crisis, the Government brought this forward to October 14.

Whatever is to happen on Tuesday has already been decided as I write this – but I hope that it will not undermine the viability of Ireland as a knowledge society. Much depends on that, and in particular our ability to escape from a longer term economic downturn and the erosion of high value, knowledge-intensive investment.

I believe that the Estimates in particular will also clearly demonstrate the futility of the view that Irish higher education can successfully be funded by the taxpayer alone. We need to raise the ambition levels for Irish universities, and to do so with a level of funding that the taxpayer simply cannot afford.We cannot aim to be a leading knowledge economy while maintaining universities funded like those of a developing country.

Explore posts in the same categories: culture, economy, university

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