Reinventing Government

In addition to dealing with the current crisis, the Irish political system must also grapple with the task of ensuring that the quality of public policy formation (and delivery of public services) improves over the longer term. To this end, Fine Gael has published a very long list of reforms in its “Reinventing Government” document, which is available here.

34 replies on “Reinventing Government”

“Smaller, cheaper better”!!! The bloody thing is 85 pages long!!!

Whose going for the beer and popcorn – or whatever your having yourself?

Brian P

Ehhh, an 89 page document about reshaping the public sector, that contains the word “union” exactly ZERO times and the word “more” around 50 times? How exactly do they think this will actually work? I’m not fan of unions, or social partnership in general, but i do at least appear to occupy a slot in the real world, something this document clearly does not…

As I’ve commented elsewhere, rather than detailed programmes and long wish-lists, the initial effort must be made to reform the process of policy decision-making and of political governance and accountability. The detail may be sorted out when the process is reformed. FG is putting so much effort into describing the merchanise they’re loading on to the cart that they’ve lost sight of the horse.

But then again, why would a faction which hasn’t secured enough seats to be the dominant governing faction since 1982 seek to diminish the excessive and baleful executive dominance that is so tantalisingly close to its grasp?

@Paul Hunt
FG are preparing the program for government for the next coalition.
Given the pressure of events, if you are not ready, then the civil service and the labour party dictate the agenda.
But they why would a partisan like you recognise such a thing?

@ Maurice

the word “union” does not exist in this document, which seems bizarre in the context of a radical overhaul of the public sector?

@EB

If one was to write a document concerning reform, why WOULD it have the word union in it. I presume FG has ambitions to govern rather than be bogged down in endless negotiations with lobby groups. It might just work.

Then again, if they are 2nd banana to Eamon G they are going nowhere.

@ Tull

i would have accepted something along the lines of “to hell with the unions”, or if it was a fairly brief overview than i could understand it not coming up, but its a fairly comprehensive and lengthy piece. Pretending they simply don’t exist does not equal a realistic reform document.

@EB

Kowtowing to interest groups has us where we are. FG does not like unions much and the Unions have a pref for FF. Little scope for dialog there.

EK, interviewed on RTE was asked a very simple question. FG support 6bn cutbacks split 3/1 in favour of expenditure, broadly in agreement with FF. Labour wants 4.5bn cutbacks split 50/50. How can a FG/LAB coalition possibly be put in place with such a significant policy gap? He didn’t answer of course.

There are several ways in which this matter can be sorted
*FG gets an overall majority -most unlikely
*FG & FF form a govt-possible but unlikely
*FF and Labour form a govt-same situation occurs
*FG & LAbour form a govt and Labour cease to inhabit la la land. Most likely to happen.

Kenny cannot answer the question. It is up to Gilmore to answer the question as to why he believes 4.5bn suffices and 50/50 cuts/taxes is possible. But you won’t get an answer to that until LAbour gets into govt ans disappoints all those who vote for it.

@Maurice O’Leary,

I’m only partisan in the interests of good governance – something that been absent in Ireland for some time; I’m entirely indifferent as to who might provide it. (Though I would have a preference for factional re-alignments that would allow competing centre/centre-right and centre/centre-left blocs to emerge.) My key point is that it would be far better for FG and Labour (since they seem to be the most likely combination of governing factions) to agree some basic reforms of the process of policy-making and political governance and then to start hammering out the subsequent detail.

At the moment we’re seeing a fight to the death between a centre/centre-right faction and centre/centre-left faction to decide which will be top-dog in a future combination. I’m not entirely convinced this is in the public or national interest.

One welcome proposal in the document, where they say:

“External recruitment of new high level specialists in banking, taxation and
macro economic forecasting to improve the Department of Finance’s capacity to deliver on key tasks.”

Obviously, FG have no confidence in the current crop of macro economic forecasters in the Department of Finance. Who can blame them? As I have pointed out, the Department of Finance has come up with absolutely useless macro economic forecasts in the past couple of years – examples: (a) they forecast in Dec 2008 that inflation would be 3% in 2009, it turned out to be -2%, but social welfare benefits were increased by 3% to match the predicted inflation (b) they forecast in April 2009 that the volume of exports would fall by 2% in 2010, which they attributed to ‘growing
uncompetitiveness’, but it now looks like the volume of exports will grow by near 10% in 2010. The final nail in the coffin of the current crop of macro economic forecasters in the Department of Finance ought to be their downward revision on 30 September last of GDP growth in 2010 and their upward revision on the same day of the budget deficit in 2010, the combination of which has been the main factor in the upsurge in pessimism about the Irish economy in the period since then. When these forecasts turn out to be as wrong as the two mentioned above, I think that the case for the immediate sacking of the current crop of macro economic forecasters in the Department of Finance will be hard to resist.

Wow, JTO almost endorsing an FG document. All we need now is for BWII and EBX2 to hand in the cumman cards and Enda is headed for the Aras to collect his seal of office.

If Simpleton could give up his support for Richard Boyd Barrett an overall majority is on the cards.

What about the pox on all their houses scenario where SF holds the balance of power. Would that be likely to lead to a FF-FG “unity” gov’t. I am cynical enough to believe it would. It is probably safe to believe that the Greens are toast. Labour will gain seats even though they have consorted with the Failed Finally party after all where would their supporters park their votes. The bond market’s only hope is a FF-FG unity pact. Hence Olli Rehn’s advice to the pols which is intended to calm the bond markets as well as Merkel, Sarkozy the ECB and all the banks that are exposed to an Irish gov’t failure. Personally I think the stables should be cleaned thoroughly.

The biggest problem is the almost permanent disenfranchisement of half the population. Basically, the Government (of whichever stripe) forms a coalition of 50% +1 and ignores the people who voted for the other side.

I propose that the Government be elected from the Dáil (rather than appointed by the Taoiseach) and that this election should happen on a PR basis so that all significant groupings (whether of party or otherwise) be represented in government.

The permanent Fianna Failocracy means half the people are always disaffected and the other half unjustly favoured. A truly plurilateral government would have more legitimacy and less incentive to cultivate interest groups.

I found it quite fluffy, and very unspecific.
Plenty of FAS HSE will be ended.
I suppose we are to take them seriously???

All a waste of time. The fundamental reality is that we need to change how the executive branch of givernment is elected or see complicity, compromise and incompetence in government on the scale we have becomne accustomed too continue unabated. Currently the people to make the critcial decisions emerge from rural popularity contests over local issues and in party squabbling. That is the recruitment source of cabinet members. Their level of complicity in the economic problems are clear, there inability to make the right decisions due to the compromises with opposing interests are clear and their completer and utter incompetence is also clear. you can put any party in Ireland in these positions you will get the same standard of governance. We need to divide the vote between local interest and national government, elect our executive branch separately from our parliamentary representatives or else Ireland will continue in its permanent failure to reach its obvious potential. Our failed polictical system is the reason why Ireland has been the poorest state in Northern Europe since its inception save for the credit fueled charade. Sustainable Prosperity starts with radical political reform.

@David S
All you say is true. But this is what we have voted for, ever since Independence. Who are we to argue with those who are happy with things the way they are? It’s not very democratic to foist our appetite for change upon an electorate which is very comfortable with the status quo. “Radical political reform” designed to achieve what exactly? Sensible policies that the Irish people have repeatedly shown no interest in across several generations?

Basic Darwinsim + accumulated emprical evidence would suggest that the good genetic stock left for US & Kilburn on the boats of the late 19th & early 20th century. They left behind cousins married, which is our political inheritance and destiny.

@SS
There is a town in Wales which for over one hundred years has exported its young as teachers first to the British Empire and later to little Britain. Numerous studies conducted by well respected academics has found no evidence that the remaining stock deteriorated in any measurable way. I do not remember the specifics but I took an interest at the time because the brightest of the young deserted (or more likely were forced out by unemployment and poverty) Ireland in the mid fifties. It was not possible to find teenagers and lads in their twenties to fill local football teams in those days. This had gone on for hundreds of years to the Spanish, French and British empires and during and after the famine to the USA. Prevailing wisdom was that the remaining stock would be weaker mentally and physically, there is no evidence or at least I have found no evidence to support that idea. We were never a well organized, well governed united country. By European standards we emerged hundreds of years late from the clan and tribal systems to say nothing about feudalism which existed up to WW2. This is all reflected in our tiny government units County Councils, Town Councils with few exceptions all too small to be cost effective. The number of TDs and the hangers on in the Senate are also due to our lack of development and parochialism. The famous “Irish mentality” exists and people are quite proud of it and I see no reason why they should not be proud of it. Other cultures have similar peculiar mentalities the difference is most cultures are aware of what is dysfunctional about their mentality and consciously make amends. To see Ireland as it is one would have to live abroad in a few different countries in order to be able to make comparisons that are in touch with reality. What I found most interesting is that my close relatives know when they are voting for someone that they would not let their daughters come within an asses roar of. When I ask them why they say the crooks you know are better than the crooks you do not know and anyhow SF is the only straight shooter available and we cannot vote for them because the whole country would be a Gaeltacht and we would be going back to the ass and cart and horse and trap. There is also a belief that crooks are better at extorting benefits out of the gov’t of the day for their deserving constituents. Out of dozens of relatives I know of only one that votes for SF and the rest are overwhelmingly for FF. The Irish know exactly what they are doing when they vote and I have my doubts that the present crisis will be enough to cause them to think altruistically and long term. Economics is fine in its place and that is embedded in a culture that the economist understands thoroughly.

All I am saying is that without a radical reform of how the executive is elected it seems obvious that compromised and incompetent government will continue for Ireland. Whether that change will happen is of course another days work. Of course I do not believe such radical change can or indeed will be imposed without the consent of people but it seems to me that all the debate about Economic Policy and Party Policy is undermined by this fact
Even if a clear path forward was identified on informed consensus ,the current political system is incapable of delivering it, too many competing interests unwilling to allow the greater good come before them. It would seem to me that actually doing what you believe is best for the country is political suicide in Ireland, it is the manipulation of competing interests that ensures political success and policticans like Bertie Ahern emerged as master of that. The parochialism of voting for a person to stive off a disproportionate amount of the national wealth to your constituency is of course rife and another reason why we must have 1 vote for local representation to parliament and another vote for our national government. I do not believe that the best of Ireland left years ago, there is an incredible amount of capable and talented people in Ireland who are head and shoulders above the current political establishment in terms of talent, intellect, achievement and perspective, but why on earth would they put themselves forward for a local election and engage in all inevitable nonsense, that by its very nature its not for people with any of the above attributes. We need to divide the local from the national, people should have strong local representation but should alos have a separate vote for the executive branch of the state, thats effectively what I see as neccesary. We all know that the next election will throw equally comprised and incompetent people into the cabinet and the charade will continue

@Mickey Hickey – “Prevailing wisdom was that the remaining stock would be weaker mentally and physically,”

I was interviewing someone last year about CF (cystic fibrosis) who told me that Ireland has the highest per capita CF rate in the world because of ‘limited gene pools’ (whatever that means, I’m not a medical scientist) due to past emigration.

Look for honesty in a TD. Vote against all the rest. Allowing the PS to rule is a better option than having dishonest liars in charge, no matter their so called party.

Left wing groups and independents succeed better than right, but I believe it will take a few elections before the left come into power. They are the only ones logically, who can “take on” the unions.

Time for the right wing PTB to shut up completely? A decade or so, the people will be sick of whoever got power, so their time will come.

Joseph

Sounds like gombeenism has a downside. I am sure there are more.

David Sherwin

Aaaah! But the election after that? And after that?

JtO

The money machine is broken. I say it was foreseeable by many and I suggest skullduggery beyond FF! They were simply so greedy and stupid as to be willing accessories to those who provided the capital that ahs been paid off by the government.

Simpleton/Richard

I am afraid you are straying into the tricky subject of eugenics here. There is simple ne evidence that the Irish electorate are any “thicker” than other electorates. Look at Italy and Berlusconi and the bunga bunga parties. After that, look at composition of the US House of Reps -some real tulips there. And as for your mother of parliaments-Sir Bufton Tufton probably did exist.

As regards, radical political reform, many of the initatives proposed -list systems, non pol appointments to cabinet etc would just lead to a plethora of party hacks assuming office and centralise power in the hands of the elite. Fat lot of good that has done us.

Finally on another note, you have consistently bemoaned the lack of value placed in Ireland on anybody with a pretence of an intellect. I think another thread debunks that theory. We pay our pretend intellectuals quite a lot. I think you fox has been well and truly shot.

@JtO

I think you are right that poor forecasting by out DoF has caused us huge problems. They are incapable of getting it right on the way up or on the way down. Morgan Kelly could estimate the cost of Anglo last may but the DoF couldn’t second guess a six year old. Over optimistic forecasts of the cost of the banking debacle done enormous damage to this Nation over the last three years. Morgan Kelly said long ago that the Minister was getting bad advice. All those forecasters and all those that hired them should be moved out of the DoF. The Minister must take some responsibility for not insisting on fresh blood in forecasting before now.

Thank you Tull for injecting a little sanity into the debate. Frankly, the idea that we are genetically compromised simply because we are on an island (an island of over 3 million) is wrong and rude.

One might just as well say that the earth is a closed system and all creatures on it are inbred.

@David Sherwin,
I agree that the central problem is the way in which the govt is elected (i.e. the constitution), I just don’t agree that there is something wrong with rural people or Irish people in general: that’s simply self-flagellation.

@zhou : “Morgan Kelly said long ago that the Minister was getting bad advice.”

I do not wish to pick a bone with you on this one. I would assert that the MoF is getting the ‘best’ advice that money commands – it just that its useless for the current debt predicament, If this is in fact correct then you are on the road to a very succesful failure.

Now, given the Min’s mindset (whatever you can conjure it to be) he will know that the advice is rock solid, and will plough on with his (theirs?) policies until we run into a brick wall and ‘dem furrners’ get the blame. Pathetic I know, but that’s the grim reality.

Brian P

@Brian Woods

One of the main problems has been that we cannot git the figures or forecasts right. I cannot imagine that the Minister is in charge of operating the calculator. These forecasts and repeated corrections have not only destroyed international confidence but have misinformed policy formation. If the Minister decides to resign and take responsibility for hese errors then so be it. However, I will not sleep easily until the duds who produced these figures are gone too.

@GER

It is quite clear that I have never said that there is anything “wrong with rural people or Irish people in general”, I refered to rural popularity contests where TD’s are judged on their proposed support for local interests over national interests. I am from a rural area myself.

Just to be clear , I am saying the difficulty is that in Ireland you can’t vote directly for a national government, you vote for a local representative and see how the aggregate of local interests, inter parliamentary interests and inter party interests plays out to select the people who make the critical decisions that affect the country.Its clearly inefficient , does not lead to competent and uncompromised people leading the country and the evidence of its inefficieny and failure is all around you.

On the other hand , I take your point and I am not suggesting a dictatorship just a radical (meaning significant not unlawful) reform to how we elect our executive. Two seperate votes and an executive answerable to a locally representative parliament in its legislative function.

I have said that

“I do not believe that the best of Ireland left years ago, there is an incredible amount of capable and talented people in Ireland who are head and shoulders above the current political establishment in terms of talent, intellect, achievement and perspective”

@GER

It is quite clear that I have never said that there is anything “wrong with rural people or Irish people in general”, I refered to rural popularity contests where TD’s are judged on their proposed support for local interests over national interests. I am from a rural area myself.

Just to be clear , I am saying the difficulty is that in Ireland you can’t vote directly for a national government, you vote for a local representative and see how the aggregate of local interests, inter parliamentary interests and inter party interests plays out to select the people who make the critical decisions that affect the country.Its clearly inefficient , does not lead to competent and uncompromised people leading the country and the evidence of its inefficieny and failure is all around you.

On the other hand , I take your point and I am not suggesting a dictatorship just a radical (meaning significant not unlawful) reform to how we elect our executive. Two seperate votes and an executive answerable to a locally representative parliament in its legislative function.

@ zhou_enlai:

Thanks for the comment. I have a feeling Min may indeed have to resign early in new year. We’ll see. As regards the advice and economic prognoses you really do have to be concerned about the situation in DoF. It would be helpful if those in charge would release the data they are using for economic forecasting and any assumptions they are relying on.

As I commented previously, I believe that the advice being given has all the appearance of being valid and the probability estimates are reliable. However, for me, a rather ill-informed observer, the whole business smacks of heroic levels of skilled incompetence. They are clueless, and are completely unaware of this – its simply beyond their comprehension that they could be wrong. The concern must be that they will become over-stressed, will attempt a risky manouver and end up making a truely catastrophic mistake which they will be unable to correct. Or did they do that already in Sept ’08???

Some commentators have mentioned some possible political changes and reforms. Not likely at present. However if the G*P goes down – and it will if oil prices do not stabilize below USD 😯 (@ E 1.40) – then the public reaction may trigger some grudging, piece-meal changes. Interesting times!

Brian P

@Tull
I’m surprised that you fell for that one. But maybe a total sense of humour failure is to be expected given all the other failures.
You make the same argument as every other parish-pump gombeen: ‘sure, look at the Italians, there’s nothing unique about our utter inability to govern ourselves. Sure, who can govern themselves well?’
Tull, set yourself the lowest possible standard and you will no doubt congratulate yourself for doing well. Shouldn’t there be an aspiration to something just a littke bit better? What about an aspiration for good governance? If that is too much to ask of ourselves surely there really is something rotten in this little state.
I can see you rolling your eyes at my naivety: how could he possibly think we could ask for high standards? Think about it

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