Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Debt masters warn on health budget

Under-fire Health Minister Dr James Reilly was told to strengthen the financial management of his department

Ireland's debt masters have warned the Government must rein in its runaway health budget if it is to continue reaching its bailout targets.

As the latest review of Ireland's bailout began, the European-International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika singled out under-fire Health Minister Dr James Reilly and demanded he strengthen financial management of his department.

"The mission starting today will focus on ensuring that Ireland's remaining fiscal adjustment is durable, growth-friendly and in line with programme targets in a way that burden-sharing is fair and that the most vulnerable are protected," said a European Commission source.

"It will focus on strengthening budgetary management in the health sector to ensure that it can deliver desired objectives within budget."

The latest review from the Troika - the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank - is the eighth of its kind since Ireland struck a bailout deal in 2010.

The outcome is expected to be detailed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, next Thursday or Friday.

The ministers met officials from the Troika in Dublin on day one.

Ireland was deemed to be on track in its bailout progress following the Troika's last review.

But with the latest European Union summit to take place in Brussels later this week in advance of Ireland taking over the European Commission presidency in January, disputes have broken out over a debt deal.

Labour MEP Emer Costello warned hopes of a bank debt deal with Europe may not be struck during the country's term as European Council president.

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