Belfast Telegraph

Benefits must be cut, says IMF

The Government must cut Ireland's high social welfare benefits to encourage people back to work, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

The organisation warned that dole payments are high by international standards and responsible for "low exit rates" from the Live Register.

As the IMF forecast the economy to grow by just 0.5% this year, it said certain welfare payments should be means-tested to avoid long-term unemployment.

Its growth forecast differs from the Government's, which stands at 0.7%.

The organisation, one of three bodies overseeing Ireland's 85 billion euro bailout, suggested people out of work should be willing to take jobs regardless of suitability.

"It is also important to ensure that jobseekers are willing and able to fill jobs when they become available," it said.

IMF Ireland mission chief Craig Beaumont suggested that eligibility for child benefits should be narrowed, targeting only families that are "relatively less well-off".

He also suggested limiting the number of medical cards issued, saying the Government will otherwise be forced to hand out more of the cards as people are now living longer.

"The cost of those medical cards will keep on rising. One way you can contain that is to look to some means-testing on eligibility," said Mr Beaumont.

The IMF bosses also praised the Government for its implementation of the Croke Park Agreement, its 2.25 billion euro stimulus plan announced and its continued work to meet its debt repayment targets.

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