Back to Top

 Skip navigation

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Government Finance Statistics - Annual

2015 to 2020 (April 2021 Results)

End of yearGeneral Government     GDP
        Balance      Gross Debt      Net Debt 
 €bn% GDP€bn% GDP€bn% GDP€bn

General government deficit of 5.0% of GDP in 2020

Figure 1 General Government Deficit, Gross Debt and Net Debt
go to full release

The general government deficit was €18.4bn in 2020, because of the impact of COVID-19 on both general government revenue and expenditure, especially the targeted government supports and public health measures. General government revenue was €85.8bn in 2020 while expenditure was €104.2bn, giving a deficit of €18.4bn (5.0% of GDP) compared with a surplus of €1.8bn in 2019 – see release Infographic.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a drop of 3.9% in government revenues and a rise of 19.1% in government expenditure (Table 1).

Government revenues were €3.5bn lower than in 2019. Overall tax revenues were down €2.5bn (a 3.9% drop on 2019), with a fall of 12.5% in indirect taxes, mainly due to reduced VAT receipts and the waiving of commercial rates, compared with a rise of 2.6% in direct taxes (including corporation tax and income taxes) (Table 3).

The significant increase of €16.7bn (19.1%) in government expenditure in 2020 is due to COVID-19 measures. There was a rise of €11.3bn in subsidies (including the Temporary/Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) and social transfers (including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). Intermediate consumption rose by €2.0bn, mostly due to extra spending by the health sector, while current transfers increased by €0.6bn (Table 4).

Provisional estimates of COVID-19 expenditure

The table below is a preliminary estimate of the impact of COVID-19 on government expenditure. It is easy to see the impact of new measures, such as the PUP. Existing budgets were used (and supplemented) in order to deliver services in other areas. This table will be updated as more data becomes available from end-year accounts.

Table A: COVID-19 measures included in general government expenditure, €bn

ESA 2010 CodeMeasure2020
D.39 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme / Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme 3.8
D.62 Pandemic Unemployment Payment 5.0
D.632 Primary care and Overseas repatriation 0.1
D.7 Restart Grant / Restart Grant Plus 0.6
D.7 Covid Restrictions Support Scheme 0.2
D.7 Other enterprise supports 0.1
P.2 Health sector expenditure 2.0
P.2 Other 0.5
P.51g ICT expenditure 0.8
Total Expenditure   13.1

See Background notes for further information.


Financing the deficit - general government debt 59.5% of GDP at end 2020

General government gross debt (the level of government borrowing) rose by almost €14bn to €218.2bn (Table 2).  However the debt to GDP ratio remained just below the Stability and Growth Pact threshold of 60% due to the performance of GDP in the year. Not all of the increase in government spending was funded by borrowing - cash balances were available to Government in 2020. These include NAMA, which transferred €2.0bn to the Exchequer, and €1.5bn from the National Surplus (Exceptional Contingencies) Reserve Fund. (The Fund was established in 2019 capitalised by €1.5bn from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund).

The market value of liabilities rose by €20bn at the end of 2020 compared with one year earlier (Table 6). This was mainly due to the issuance of bonds in order to fund the COVID-19 related expenditure. Loan liabilities fell, mainly due to the repayment of three tranches (€1.9bn) of the UK bilateral loan in 2020. (Each tranche is £0.4bn and the last one repaid in March 2021).

Financial assets (at market value) decreased by €2.7bn in 2020. This was composed mainly of a decrease in the value of equity of €3.7bn and an increase in currency and deposits of €1.3bn.

General government net debt rose by €12.2bn to €187.7bn (51.2% of GDP) at the end of 2020. Net debt takes account of the assets corresponding to Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) debt instruments, i.e. currency and deposits, securities other than shares, and loans (Tables 2 and 7).


Government accounts are compiled in the EU according to the European System of National Accounts2010 (ESA2010) framework.

The detailed tables are aligned with the April 2021 Excessive Deficit Procedure notification. Revisions to previous years reflect updated data sources or changes in methodology - see Background notes.

The main EDP notification tables for Ireland will be published on 22 April, the same day as the Eurostat release of EDP statistics. This will include details of government guarantees, PPPs and concessions and tables showing the impact on government accounts of government interventions in the financial sector.

Annual Government Finance Statistics are benchmarked to the most recent EDP notification and so may not be fully aligned with the National Income and Expenditure and related publications, such as the Institutional Sector Accounts.

The concepts and definitions used in this release are described in the background notes. GNI* is not yet available for 2020 but is included in Table 1 for the years 2015-2019.