THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has approved the latest €1 billion bailout loan to Ireland – while publishing a report which confirms that Ireland will introduce water charges far earlier than had been previously expected.
The latest quarterly report, published by Brussels this afternoon, sees the European Commission agree to release the latest instalment in Ireland’s loans under the €67.5 billion funding programme with the Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank.
The formal report confirms data included in a draft copy leaked last month – and says the Irish government has outlined plans to levy for domestic water charges will be in place “for domestic users from 1 January 2014″.
The legislation to establish Irish Water, the body responsible for collecting the charges, would be enacted “in the third quarter of this year” under the timetable supplied by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
Elsewhere, the document affirms previous reports that the European Commission would seek action from Ireland on tackling “the broadly flat and open-ended unemployment benefits that do not diminish with the duration of the unemployment spell” – that is, cutting welfare payments for the long-term unemployed.
The report offers a mixed appraisal of Ireland’s economic outlook – and cuts its expectations for economic growth in 2013 as a result of “continued uncertainties in the outlook for trading partners’ growth”.
The report says Ireland’s economy, measured in GDP, will grow by 0.4 per cent this year (compared to 0.5 per cent previously) – but the impact will be felt next year, when growth falls from 1.9 per cent, as previously expected, to 1.4 per cent.
Meanwhile, unemployment will be higher than previously expected – and will peak at 14.8 per cent this year before falling to 13.1 per cent over the next three years.
There is some good news, however: the European Commission believes Ireland’s government deficit will stand at 8.4 per cent of its GDP this year, ahead of the previous expectation of 8.6 per cent.
The report also sees Brussels complement the government’s draft Personal Insolvency Bill, though it asks for amendments on how it values collateral given for loans, and ensuring that creditors have the right to seize collateral on loans which have been defaulted upon.