Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said he would proceed cautiously before sanctioning any request for extra staff at either the National Asset Management Agency or the Department of Social Protection.

Earlier, NAMA said it may require over 200 additional staff to deal with outstanding loan book issues.

The OECD has also recently criticised what it said was the low number of staff within the Department of Social Welfare who were engaged in frontline labour activation measures.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Howlin said there were already over 6,500 staff in that department.

He indicated that any extra staff needed for labour activation measures could be redirected from existing staff within the department.

Minister Howlin also said that after five difficult budgets, it would be naive to think next month's Budget will be any easier.

Speaking at the Chartered Accountants Ireland Leinster Society lunch, the minister said there are no easy decisions left in tax or public spending, but he said the Budget would be as fair and job-friendly as possible.