Dáil Éireann - Volume 517 - 30 March, 2000

Written Answers. - Exchequer Revenue.

86. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance whether Government policy does not measure depletion of resources as a cost in budgetary terms and the cost of clearing up pollution is measured as income; and, if so, the measures, if any, he has to address these anomalies. [5219/00]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): The central public finances, that is Exchequer receipts and payments, are accounted for on a cash basis. The constitutional and statutory provisions on which the Oireachtas levies taxation and appro[398] priates amounts for financing public services are cash based and consequently reports to the Dáil on receipts and expenditure must also be cash based. Since 1996 however the annual appropriation accounts prepared by Departments have been enhanced by the inclusion of some accruals features.

A second line of accountability for Government expenditure exists through the EU. The General Government Balance is the system used by the European Commission and which it requires us to use. This is calculated using the European System of Accounts 1995 version, ESA95.

Both measures of budgetary arithmetic count as income for Exchequer revenues arising in connection with the depletion of natural resources, to which I assume the Deputy refers.

The ESA95 methodology does not envisage the making of provisions to reflect the depletion of natural resources, nor can such provisions be made in the Exchequer accounts, which measure flows of receipts and payments only. Exchequer outlays which are connected with the countering or treatment of pollution are recorded as expenditure under both budget definitions. Where pollution which has been caused by a third party is cleared up by a State agency, and the third party is charged for the clearing up, the payment is required to be recorded as income under ESA95 rules and as a cash receipt in the Exchequer accounts.