Figures released show a massive shortfall of close to €7.5 billion in the amount of tax revenue collected by the Government during the first 11 months of the year. Already revenue projections in the October budget are seriously out of line. The October budget forecast a total tax shortfall for 2008 of €6.5 billion. It is now probable that the shortfall for the year could exceed €8 billion. Tax revenue is 16 per cent behind projections made at the start of the year. VAT is €2.1 billion below expectations, capital gains tax is down €1.7 billion and stamp duty is €1 billion below target.
The 2009 Exchequer deficit appears headed for €16.5 billion and the associated General Government Deficit is likely to be 8% instead of the 6.5% projected in the recent Budget. The 2009 current deficit is likely to come in at around €8 billion.
These are horrific figures, which rule out the possibility of a financial injection by the government to reflate the economy. The government has absolutely no leeway. The over expansionary budgets in 2006 and 2007 by the FF/PD government led to an increase in public expenditure of 25% and also fuelled inflation. This was tantamount to pouring petrol on the raging fires of economic growth at a time when it was necessary douse the flames. This spending was supported by revenue from an unsustainable property boom.
The government is now trapped. It lacks the financial wherewithal to boost the economy. Internal revenue sources are shrinking. The property bubble has burst. Unemployment has reached 251,000 and will continue to rise sharply.
The FF/Green government will endeavour to tackle the problem by a combination of further public expenditure cuts and a reduction of public service numbers. It may also target public service pay. In a doomsday situation a 10% pay cut could not be ruled out.