The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Government may borrow more than originally planned this year.

Brian Cowen told the Dáil that ministers will now seek to be as close as possible to the previous target of limiting borrowing to 9.5% of GDP.

Opposition leaders pressed the Taoiseach for clarity on the amount to be borrowed and the scale of the gap to be bridged in next month's Budget.

However, Mr Cowen insisted that he could not come into the Dáil to give regular updates on the fiscal position.

He said it was important to limit borrowing to 3% of national output by 2013 - the figure already notified to the EU.

Mr Cowen said the Government had to seek a balance between extra taxes, spending cuts, and borrowing to meet the gap in the public finances, without causing further damage to the economy.

Concluding pre-Budget statements in the Dáil this evening, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihain said there is no doubt that living standards will fall for everyone and that there will be pain to be shared.

He said that sacrifices have already been made but conditions continue to deteriorate.

Minister Lenihan said the Government have done everything possible to give the Opposition information to make constructive proposals or criticisms but that it is the Government's responsibility to draw up the Budget.

He added he was happy to engage further with the Fine Gael finance spokesperson Richard Bruton on proposals he made on aspects of the Budget.

Meanwhile, the Government has won a vote in the Dáil tonight on a private members' motion seeking to reduce the number of junior ministers.

Fine Gael had proposed the motion to reduce the number of junior ministers from 20 down to 12.