One of the things underpinning a lot of posts, notably Karl’s last one, is that there is an elephant in the living room here around the human capital available to deal with economic issues within the core Government Departments. We know the tales of how there are no economists in the civil service. What is badly needed is something like the Government Economic Service in the UK. This ensures two things – the presence of a cadre of professional economists within the sector, but also the harmonisation of the training across Departments giving a unity of approach regardless of the topic. Of course the development of PhD capacity in Ireland will help but that takes time – wondering aloud, should we as a body of economists not begin to work with the Government to develop a GES model for Ireland and also develop the training structures?
Thanks folks, for the comments. I am going to stay out of the debate around constitutional crisis this would cause…..and just pick up some threads. Cormac’s comment hits it well and he would know well from working at IFS in London what I mean. The GES is NOT an new body accountable or otherwise – it is a training infrastructure for the civil service that ensures that economists are trained in a way that is consistent across the service regardless of their posting. It also ensures that economists can move between Departments, be redeployed etc very easily and that economics has a core platform within the service. Secondly, the issue is not creating new degrees etc but rather to work with the civil service to ensure that platform is in place. Thirdly, there is both an immediate need for a small, highly skilled cohort now – perhaps this is the 10 or so that Brian L discusses – but the idea that we can continue with the lamentable lack of economics as a core discipline across all government departments needs to be tackled. In effect health, education, environment and employment have no structured economics unit and to revert briefly to constitutional issues, to be relying on external ministerial advisors is worrying. Finally, for sure this would need a change in how things work – the economics unit in the UK looks at EVERY piece of policy and proofs it against standard metrics.
Thanks again, folks, for the comments.