Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. 

And Budget 2021 certainly contained plenty of those. 

What was delivered yesterday was a package larger than any we have seen before in the history of the State, aimed at tackling and heading off the fallout from not one, but two major challenges - Covid-19 and Brexit. 

In "ordinary" times a Government promise to spend so much would have been cause for celebration.

It is an understandable sign of the times we are in though that this time around, that is not the case.

Everyone knows we are in deep trouble and that the Government has little option other than to spend its way out of it.

But in the business community at least, the reaction to the package, while not joyful, has been one of muted welcome.

Corporate leaders had asked for a wall of money to be thrown at the economy to counteract the damage being wreaked on it by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In large part they got what they sought through a massive €18 billion spending package - a blunderbuss of cash fired in every direction. 

Measures like the new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, the pledge to continue a wage subsidy scheme until the end of next year, the extension of the rates waiver and the cut in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector, for example, will cushion the worst effects of the pandemic. 

They will help keep people in employment who might otherwise have been laid off and get some of the many thousands of those who have lose jobs back to work through reskilling and retraining.

Vulnerable but viable firms will be sustained on life support for the next few months and into next year. 

Coupled with the as yet unallocated €3.4bn Recovery Fund, it amounts to a bold an aggressive move by the Government that should go some way towards keeping the economy alive until then at least.  

It's what happens after that though which should be of bigger concern to us all.

Fingers will remain collectively crossed that a Brexit trade deal can be done in time to avoid a desperately damaging cliff-edge at the end of the year. 

Beyond that, hopes remain high - perhaps prematurely - that a Covid-19 vaccine could be delivered in the early to middle part of next year and rolled out. 

What nobody wants to think about though is what the consequences might be if only one, or indeed neither of those things happen. 


Read: Budget 2021 stories


Fortunately we were in reasonably good budgetary shape entering this crisis and can afford to borrow the €40bn-plus we will need this year and next to plug the exchequer deficit. 

But repeated escalations and de-escalations of Covid-19 restrictions, coupled with the tariffs, supply chain disruption and drop in trade that a no-trade-deal Brexit could bring, would surely test the boundaries of the Budget arithmetic. 

At some point early next year, the Government is going to have to outline how it plans to exit the current scenario where it is borrowing a quarter of its annual budget. 

Markets backed by central banks are generous now, offering cheap and plentiful money to trustworthy borrowers like Ireland.

But there is a point at which those benefactors will demand to see meaningful steps towards reductions in the deficit and our growing debt mountain, which by the end of this year will stand at €219bn. 

Come that time, if we haven't turned the economic corner, then very difficult and unpalatable choices will lie ahead. 

Spending would have to be cut dramatically, heralding a return to austerity. 

The Government could face the thorny dilemma of having to decide which parts of the economy to write off, which businesses should live and which should die. 

And even if we have turned the corner by then, nobody expects the economy to bounce back overnight. 

It will be 2022 at the earliest before we could possibly see a return to economic "normality", whatever that now means. 

Understandably though, right now nobody really wants to think that far ahead. 

The focus rightly remains on the present, on trying to once again put a lid on the growth in cases of Covid-19 so the economy can remain open and grow again.

And it also remains on science, in the hope that it can and will provide a solution that will get us out of this economic, health and social quagmire, before it's too late.