The Government's plans for 2% growth in current spending for 2020 may not be realistic, according to a senior economist.

Conall Mac Coille, chief economist with Davy, said he would share the concerns expressed by the Fiscal Advisory Council about the outlay for next year, especially in the context of spending pressures in the run into elections.

"If you look at 2018, the plan was to grow current spending by 4%, the out-turn was 6%. In 2019, the plan was to grow current spending by 4%. We're already hearing stories about deficits emerging in the HSE, ministers making commitments in terms of public sector pay," Mr Mac Coille said

"The plan for 2020 is to grow current expenditure by only 2%. That 2% growth put in the numbers for 2020 may not realistic."

He was commenting on the Exchequer returns for April which showed that the Government collected close to €15.6 billion in taxes in the first four months of the year, an increase of 5.7% on the same period last year.

Mr Mac Coille said the shortfall in incomes tax receipts for the month of April, against what the department had been expecting, had to be put in perspective.

"There was nearly €2 billion in receipts for April. The shortfall was 0.1%. It was up 6.7% on the previous year. That's reflecting the 2-3% jobs growth, wage growth of around 3% and people moving into the top tax bracket."

He said the minister would likely be aiming for another small surplus this year, but he suggested that the Government ought to be more ambitious in its objectives.

"The real issue is that debt is still too high. It stands at 105% of GNI (Gross National Income). The Central Bank and others will continue to argue that the government needs to build up bigger surpluses of 1 or 2% of GDP to get that down," he added.