IFAC: Oireachtas Committee Hearing

This post was written by Philip Lane

The members of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council were in front of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform last week - the transcript is here.

35 Responses to “IFAC: Oireachtas Committee Hearing”

  1. Gavin Kostick Says:

    A very interesting read - I highly recommend it.

    A couple of pieces to note:

    John McHale in reponse to a question from Mary Lou McDonald TD.

    “We look at these issues [tax vs cuts] from a macroeconomic perspective. One of the arguments we made in the report is that the evidence for the claim that expenditure-based adjustments are superior to tax-based adjustments, from a macroeconomic point of view, is weaker than people assume. As we evaluated the evidence, new findings showed that the superiority of expenditure-based adjustments, that is, cuts in spending, is based on the fact that Central Banks are often more accommodative of the former than the latter in that they offset them somewhat by changes in interest rates, possibly because they believe they are more sustainable. That does not apply in the Irish case because the Central Bank is not in a position to respond specifically to what happens in terms of Irish policy.

    “We pointed out in the report that the evidence for implementing budgetary adjustments mostly by way of cutting spending is weaker, in the Irish context, than it may have appeared. That piece of evidence, taken by itself, would suggest an adjustment that includes a more balanced of mix of, on the one hand, measures to increase revenues and, on the other, measures to reduce spending. It is at that level that we can make a contribution as macroeconomists.”

    Prof Alan Barrett responding to a question from Richard Boyd Barrett TD on where the forecasts for growth come from, particularly the further out you go.

    “We know about the sort of difficulties facing the economy and the further out one goes, obviously the less pertinent the information one currently has and so one tends to fall back on looking at long-term historical growth patterns, which is in the range of 2.5% to 3%. That is really where the projection comes from.”

    John McHale on the subject of a balance sheet recession:

    “The question of the overall quantum of debt was raised. We should be somewhat careful in adding together Government debt, corporate debt, mortgage debt and so on. One of our main concerns is national solvency, especially from the point of view of State solvency. This arises in that the weight of debt - this relates to the point made about growth as well - and the problems of balance sheets throughout the economy feed into the potential growth performance of the economy.

    “One of the great uncertainties about the economy is the nature of the recession we are in. One key element of the recession is that it is a balance sheet recession in that balance sheets are in poor shape throughout the economy. Other countries have gone through this in the past including, most famously, Japan. However, we know less about how a small, open economy such as Ireland will perform in the context of such a balance sheet recession. The overall debt is important but feeding in through growth and the outlook for growth matters greatly in terms of the possibilities for debt sustainability. I refer back to the point Deputy Donnelly made about scenario modelling. This is the kind of thing we can investigate as we examine various scenarios about how debt affects growth and the fiscal situation. We will be examining all such matters.”

    Question to John McHale if he’s reading: how will IFAC include the issue of total debt across the economy in its future work?

    Any chance of asking Richard Koo over?

    Also, what, if any, take home points did you have from the hearing?

  2. Georg R. Baumann Says:

    Deputy Peter Mathews:

    …Do the delegates agree that at least €75 billion within the amounts owed to the ECB and our Central Bank has an odious provenance because it arose as a result of financing losses that were not admitted and ascertained over approximately two years while senior bonds, which would not and could not have been repaid, were repaid? Those are simple questions.

    Dr. Donal Donovan:
    I simply do not know; it is not my area of expertise and I have not studied it.

  3. Georg R. Baumann Says:

    Donal Donovan is currently Adjunct Professor at the University of Limerick and a Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin. He was a member of the teams that produced the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland’s report in May 2010 and the Nyberg Commission’s report in April 2011, both dealing with the causes of the Irish banking crisis. Donal is a former IMF staff member (1977- 2005) before retiring as a Deputy Director. During his IMF career, he worked closely with many countries experiencing financial crises. Donal holds a B.A. from Trinity College Dublin and a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia.

  4. Cormac J Lucey Says:

    In my opinion, the key passage of evidence came in response to a question from Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Fein) where John McHale stated that:

    “Using our fiscal feedback model, we have also conducted simulations of what would have happened if there had been no adjustment at all. The Deputy referred to the €21 billion adjustment which has taken place so far. On conservative assumptions, the deficit in 2011 would have been 20% of GDP instead of the projected 10.3% if there had been no measures taken. We would be heading for a debt to GDP ratio in 2014 to 2015 of approximately 180% of GDP.”

    So while the reduction in Ireland’s underlying deficit has been depressingly small (from 11.8% GDP at peak to an expected 10.3% GDP by year end 2011), the deficit would have have been an awful lot worse had no action been taken.

  5. Paul Hunt Says:

    Although there was a variety of questions, positions and observations advanced by the Cttee for F, PE & R- some depressingly predictable, prejudiced and adding little to the sum total of human knowledge, the Cttee’s overall approach - and the IFAC’s role, mandate, resourcing and reporting lines - sums up, for me, the deep dysfunction in democratic governance in Ireland.

    Instead of being a resource that might be employed to scrutinise government and to allow the Oireachtas to exercise restraint over it in the public interest, the IFAC is a creature of Government. This is certainly not intended as a slur on the integrity or professionalism of the members, but it is simply a piece of railway rolling stock that can only run on the tracks provided by government. Despite the best efforts of the members, it can only move as far or as a fast as the resources provided by government allow; and these are pitiful. The members may be able to look out of the carriage windows and make observations on what they see, but they are expected to draw the curtains and keep a focus directly ahead on the middle-distance.

    In a properly functioning parliamentary democracy, the IFAC would be resourced and empowered by, and reporting directly to, the Oireachtas. The fact that members have to work evenings and weekends without appropriate recompense for their opportunity costs highlights the extent to which government intends it to be an ‘optical illusion’ that might pull the wool over the eyes of the Troika.

    It’s pretty obvious that the members of the Cttee from the governing factions see it in this light. And the members from the opposition factions see it as a means to score political points. But none have the imagination or wit to see how it could and should be used.

    In any event, it probably doesn’t matter, because the Troika will keep a tight leash on fiscal matters and when, eventually, Ireland emerges from this support programme, fiscal discipline will be imposed centrally from Brussels or Frankfurt.

    This, of course, leaves a whole host of micro policy and regulatory issues that impact on macro and fiscal outcomes - and that remain and will remain subject to domestic governance - but the IFAC has no mandate to consider these. And you can be sure the Government won’t extend such a mandate to it or to anybody else. And all the while the subsidy-grabbers, rent-seekers, regulator-capturers and consumer-gougers gorge themselves at the trough.

  6. seafóid Says:

    “Our mandate is to assess the forecasts and assessments coming from the Government. We are resourced to do that but we are certainly not resourced to have our own forecasting and projection capability.”

    How important is this ?

    7% of DoF employees “have qualifications” . Can they all make tea ?

    Stephen Donnelly “One of the roles the council can play is not just in providing analysis and recommendations but in communicating the analysis and recommendations. The information provided by the ESRI is not bad, but it is still fairly complex, while that provided by the Department of Finance is just political spin. I can read some of it, but I cannot read all the information that is coming from everywhere. The fiscal council can play an extraordinarily valuable role in explaining these things to the people of Ireland, who have become extraordinarily financially and economically literate over the last three or four years.
    I love the graphics in the report and the way it is laid out, and I love the illustration of the benchmarking of different groups. I encourage the council to get people in - maybe it already has them - who can help nail the communications to different audiences, whether it is people such as Professor Barrett, trained economists or people who are scared about what is going on. Within that, some scenario modelling would be useful.”

    Deputy Stephen Donnelly: I wish to clarify this. With regard to the capital expenditure programme will the council have only the little booklet that came out? Is that all the council has to respond to?
    Professor John McHale: That is all we have to respond to. We could request additional specific information but we are not insiders.

    I wonder what James Joyce would have made of the DoF version 2011.

  7. David O'Donnell Says:

    @seafoid

    ‘I wonder what James Joyce would have made of the DoF version 2011.’

    Their methods are strange -

    They cause great surprize -

    To make the blind see -

    They spin durt in their eyes.

    (Adaptation of Joyce by Blind Biddy from her neu collection ‘De Trained Ekonomists’, NotDeDinnyO’B Press, Dublin, 2011)

  8. seafóid Says:

    I get the feeling the DoF is set to serve a population where 92% of people leave education by age 16. 1953 or so. Fair play to Deputy Donnelly and the council for attempting to bring some light to proceedings. Scenario analysis should only be the start. Imagine if it was all on a system and available at the touch of a button.

  9. Brian Woods Says:

    “We know about the sort of difficulties facing the economy and the further out one goes, obviously the less pertinent the information one currently has and so one tends to fall back on looking at long-term historical growth patterns, which is in the range of 2.5% to 3%. That is really where the projection comes from.”

    NG Grade Prof. If I concocted this and put it into a semester assignment. it would be trashed. Dreadful.

    Brian

  10. seafóid Says:

    I think it’s encouraging to see people of the calibre of Peter Matthews and Stephen Donnelly in the Dail. The Council too has some wise heads. Changing the modus operandi in the DoF is a long term play. They remind me of a manager I worked with in India. He was the numbers guru. He used to pull the quarterly numbers out of his ass . No system. No documentation. Oral culture. Then the IT wallas got a system going and it was suddenly possible to print out the numbers for each quarter and to examine things like trends. It was a black day for him. The credibility vanished.

  11. Joseph Ryan Says:

    @Seafoid
    Maybe not so black. He probably had normal bowel function thereafter.

  12. Livonian Says:

    Re:Stephen Donnelly TD (courtesy of Seafoid)

    “The fiscal council can play an extraordinarily valuable role in explaining these things to the people of Ireland, who have become extraordinarily financially and economically literate over the last three or four years.”

    Fair dues to Stephen Donnelly TD for pointing out that the majority of Irish people are not uneducated and unsophisticated as some “experts” would like to believe.

    Deputy Peter Mathews: (courtesy of Georg R Baumann):

    “Do the delegates agree that at least €75 billion within the amounts owed to the ECB and our Central Bank has an odious provenance because it arose as a result of financing losses that were not admitted and ascertained over approximately two years while senior bonds, which would not and could not have been repaid, were repaid? Those are simple questions.”

    Dr. Donal Donovan:
    I simply do not know; it is not my area of expertise and I have not studied it.”

    IMHO readers should read Georgś subsequent post regarding the good Doctors qualifications which presumably have produced an ability to “study” and draw conclusions about pressing current fiscal and economic issues.

    @Seafoid

    “I get the feeling the DoF is set to serve a population where 92% of people leave education by age 16.”

    Excellent point. The sooner certain “exhalted experts” get their “heads out of the sand” by realising that the “great unwashed” are largely comparatively well “ejumicated” and sophisticated so are less susceptible to “hogwash” the sooner we will see more accountability.

    Most politicians (who must “re-apply” every few years) realise this, especially after the “cull” earlier this year, but threre often seem to be a lot of Senior Public Servants and Senior Academics who appear to be still on a “learning curve”. :)

  13. seafóid Says:

    Donnelly again :

    I want to ask the witnesses about their independence, which is extremely important to me as a non-Government Deputy. I do not trust anything I get from the Department of Finance, frankly, and it gives us as little as possible.

    Sean Barrett

    “I greatly value the group’s independence because there was institutional failure in the Department of Finance and in the Central Bank. Our visitors are stepping into the breach, a vital step. I do not know how their role will evolve but as Professor Alan Barrett will know from his work as a journal editor that capital expenditure appraisal is not the most advanced part of economics. We just do not do it; the interest group and the spending Department nominate the project and if it does not work, we are left with a debt mountain and nothing happens. I was glad to see Edgar Morganroth, one of the council’s colleagues, was brought in by the Department to get the capital expenditure appraisal correct. We used to boast that our public programme was twice the size of any other country, as if we were somehow hugely advanced and they were not. That lesson was learned with the debt mountain we ended up with.
    I see this council evolving into a council of economic advisors like in the United States. On the current side, do the programmes run by the Departments of Health, Education and Skills and Social Protection, the big three, make anyone any healthier or promote Ireland as a smart economy when 80% of kids are taught mathematics by someone with no qualification in that subject? The allocation of scarce resources which have alternative uses has not been appraised. It will fall to the council because we did not do it and that is why we got into so much trouble.
    The household debt problem is huge. If a person paid €500,000 in 2006 for a house that was worth €100,000 in Dublin ten years earlier, he is working for the banks. We have a bad starting point in that public and household finances are in a grim state. The assumption in Keynesian terms is that we would go back to stage 1 where there is a reserve fund for a shock that might hit the economy. We put it cumulatively and wound up with debt to GDP figures of 140% to 160%. It is a difficult place from which to start a stimulus programme. The legacy is our starting point and it is a large and, at the top end, well-paid bureaucracy run by powerful interest groups that must get used to the idea of independent groups like the council getting an input into the construction of economic policy. It was pointed out by Micheál Collins in his work that tax lowerers and accountants have an amazing influence on our tax system and that around €12.8 billion in tax waivers were secured by their efforts. On the committee he worked on, Mr. Collins proposed as an economist that we look at those but the majority of tax lowerers said that is how they make their living and refused to do so. The Revenue Commissioners also have a sizeable interest in that.
    There is a lot of economic policy that people like our guests must analyse and find a way out of. I welcome what has happened so far. It is vital that we remain independent of the Department of Finance but it is also vital that the deficiencies the Wright report found in the Department of Finance and Mr. Nyberg found in the Central Bank are remedied. Should this council of economic advisors seek to develop economic expertise in the Department of Finance and then in every single spending Department, so simple lobbying does not masquerade as economic policy? An important start has been made but turning economic policy around after such spectacular mistakes needs an infusion of economics, which is well represented by our visitors. We let it slip. The Wright report pointed out that 7% of the staff in the Department of Finance had a qualification as against 60% in Canada. We cannot have serious investment decisions being made when there is only a 7% chance the person in charge might have some qualifications in these economic issues.”

  14. David O'Donnell Says:

    @all

    On Dr Donal Donovan ….

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2011/02/09/new-imf-statements-on-ireland/#comment-123413

  15. David O'Donnell Says:

    FYI Kevin Cardiff rejected by one vote.

  16. Joseph Ryan Says:

    @Seafoid

    We cannot have serious investment decisions being made when there is only a 7% chance the person in charge might have some qualifications in these economic issues.”

    On ther other hand, not counting the DOF ‘experts’, we had at least two supposedly very well educated men in the room the night of the fatal decision.

    We are back to the Mark Twain? quote about it being:
    difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.

  17. Joseph Ryan Says:

    @DOD

    Best news of the day.
    Bad mistake by Noonan. Taking the advice of advisors again, just like in the Bridgit McCole case.

  18. seafóid Says:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/1123/breaking4.html

    German MEP Ingeborg Grassle claimed that the amount of emails from Ireland lobbying over Mr Cardiff’s nomination had never been seen before.

    Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said: “I think of all the people who are nominated to serve on European Auditors over the years by Ireland, Kevin Cardiff was the most qualified for the job.”

    must be linked to

    The Wright report pointed out that 7% of the staff in the Department of Finance had a qualification as against 60% in Canada.

  19. Georg R. Baumann Says:

    Good evening,

    Re my uncommented quotes concerning Dr. Donovan:

    I felt no need to comment on them, and some fellow posters here clearly understood the essence of the both posts.

    Dr. Donovan’s answer, given his education and especially his history with the IMF, is somewhat vague to say the least. I am convinced that the concept, and established international law, on odious debts is well within the knowledge of any person who ever worked for the IMF.

    http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/osgdp20074_en.pdf

    I see this debt audit here: http://www.debtireland.org/resources/publications/an-audit-of-irish-debt/

    with a view on establishing the amount of odious debts Ireland.

    Anyone closer to the subject of odious debt in an international context will know too well, that this is rather kept taboo. Dr. Donovan’s answer was a jaw dropper to me and I would not have let that go, but i understand that Peter Matthews came only at the end of the session and had no chance to follow up on his blunt answer.

  20. Georg R. Baumann Says:

    @seafóid

    As Mrs. Graessle is member of both Committee on Budgets and Committee on Budgetary Control, I guess she would have an insight in the amount of lobbying in deed.

  21. seafóid Says:

    @ Georg
    Marta Andreasen of the UKIP knows all about EU auditing and I would take her on before K Cardiff any day of the week.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marta_Andreasen

  22. Livonian Says:

    Re: Joseph Ryan @DOD

    “Bad mistake by Noonan. Taking the advice of advisors again,…..”

    IMHO this should provide further proof (if we needed any) that everything in Ireland involving economics ,including this site, is followed very closely throughout Europe .

    @Seafoid

    “German MEP Ingeborg Grassle claimed that the amount of emails from Ireland lobbying over Mr Cardiff’s nomination had never been seen before.”

    This should also illustrate that the “great unwashed” in Ireland “have become extraordinarily financially and economically literate”.

    Even though I think the salaries and perks of senior Irish public servants (including senior academics) are outrageous I sincerely hope that we all keep in mind that people are entitled to dignity, respect and personal space.

  23. Overseas commentator Says:

    I do not see any good reason why the Irish growth rate will be higher than the growth rate of continental Europe in the foreseeable future and I see plenty of good reasons why the growth rate of continental Europe will not reach 3%.

  24. seafóid Says:

    @ livonian

    I feel sorry for Mr Cardiff as a person. He must be very disappointed. However reading that transcript from the Oireachtas committee hearing it would appear that the DoF is what the Germans would call Verbesserungsbedürftig

    http://dictionary.reverso.net/german-english/verbesserungsbed%C3%BCrftig

    But is it Verbesserungsfähig ?

    http://dictionary.reverso.net/german-english/verbesserungsf%C3%A4hig

  25. seafóid Says:

    Reading that transcript I wondered if John McHale had ever seen the Richard Harris version of the Field. The American who comes back to the old sod. Starring the DoF as Bull McCabe.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjKJnsMwHk0

    Public auction or scenario projections

  26. Livonian Says:

    @Seafoid

    Somehow I would guess the former, however you never know. The “great unwashed” (now that they have “lurned a bit of aul reedin an writin”) seem to be setting higher expectations and accountability.

    Shaggin fe…rs.

    One time you could just impress the eejits by putting on a suit , buying them a few pints at election time, signing a few clever sounding “leave it with me” letters, and put the management of the country in the hands of a few lads who sounded like they knew what they were talking about whenever somebody asked them a difficult question.

    Hey is that microphone on? :)

  27. The Dork of Cork Says:

    Headline from PRAGCAP…….
    GERMANY: WE CAN MONETIZE OUR DEBT, BUT THE ECB CAN’T

    This is politically explosive.

  28. seafóid Says:

    Professor Alan Barrett:

    I wish to add a point regarding Deputy Boyd Barrett’s concern as to whether we should be listened to. Obviously, as a profession, we should hold our hands up and say we made huge mistakes, there is much we got wrong and much we clearly do not understand about how the economy works, and it is important that we put all those things out there. However, on the specifics, this is the fiscal council and our main job is to assess fiscal policy and the fiscal stance. It is quite a limited role in many ways. There has been plenty of discussion about how that might expand. If I talk about the ESRI in particular, we can put our hands up and say we got forecasting terribly wrong. We did not spot the banking crisis - that was absolutely the case - but if members check the record they will note that one thing we did was we talked about fiscal policy being overly expansionary going back to the early part of the last decade. In general, while economists disagree about a range of matters, we have a better understanding about how fiscal policy should be run and we talked about this, not only the ESRI but also many other groups. I am sure Senator Barrett talked about this at great length over that time. Yes, we made our mistakes but as I said, when it came to fiscal policy, which is the specific of what we are dealing with now, had economists listened we would not be in the crisis position we are in now.

  29. grumpy Says:

    @Gavin K

    You might find this of interest also, regarding the filtering out of spurious reductions in deficits for all sorts of reasons, being passed off as resulting from fiscal tightening pursued in order to reduce deficits:

    http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2011/wp11158.pdf

    @John McH

    “As we evaluated the evidence, new findings showed that the superiority of expenditure-based adjustments, that is, cuts in spending, is based on the fact that Central Banks are often more accommodative of the former than the latter in that they offset them somewhat by changes in interest rates, possibly because they believe they are more sustainable. That does not apply in the Irish case because the Central Bank is not in a position to respond specifically to what happens in terms of Irish policy.”

    To which one could add that even if it were, the sort of response would be limited by the fact that interest rates are more or less at the lower bound and alternative ‘tools’ are of questionable worth. Many rules of thumb - like the one that a 4% sterling TW depreciation was equivalent to a 1% interest rate reduction - are very context dependent.

    The arguments about how appropriate tax increases versus spending cuts are is unhelpfully tribal, both in terms of peoples’ political prejudices and self-interest. If you think about it, it is strange that the majority view isn’t BOTH that more gradual fiscal adjustment combined with a credible plan for bringing the deficit down over time would be preferable, AND that fairly uncompromising, speedy and effectiveness-oriented reforms to de-throne sheltered private sectors, near monopolies, unsustainable public sector pay and pension entitlements etc be carried out.

    Why this is a bit of a no-man’s land in terms of opinion, is an interesting question.

  30. vinny Says:

    IFAC - yet another useless talking shop as predicted!
    Who spotted the banking crisis? - Somers in the NTMA did, spoke to fellow managers in the NTMA…
    What did the NTMA do?Nothing!
    Decentralisation set aside!Hurray!What will that do for joined-up-government now that all the heads are within a two-mile radius of each other?
    Absolutely nothing!
    Silos/empires/turf/narrow deptl vision remain supreme!
    Bring on the Bundestag/Troika/ - anything but this mess!

  31. Gavin Kostick Says:

    @ grumpy

    Thanks for that. Have read summary and conclusion with interest and will go back for more.

  32. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Grumpy,

    “Why this is a bit of a no-man’s land in terms of opinion, is an interesting question.”

    I suspect you are, in parts, employing rhetoric, being a tad disingenuous and not a little provocative. To some extent or other everyone knows the answer to your question. It is the blindingly obvious reality that dares not speak its name - and about which only the foolish and the brave dare speak.

    Civil society is dominated by bodies that represent and advance the narrow sectional interests of groups defined by occupation or source of income. And so we have a plethora of bodies representing farmers, large businesses, small businesses, firms in various sectors, workers in various occupations (trades unions), the professions, pensioners, the unemployed, etc. All seek to bend the ear of government in pursuit of their own narrow sectional interests with little regard for the impact on the prosperity or well-being of others. Many are able to deploy considerable political and economic power and all have developed an effective lobbying capability. There is an entire industry of consultants, researchers, PR operatives, lawyers, advisers and tame academics employed to support and advance the different causes. The objective is rent-seeking and the output is BS.

    Successive governments risked being inundated by this avalanche of BS and, in order to distance themselves from the politcial fall-out of having to make decisions on all these conflicting sectional interests, they established a plethora of statutory and quasi-statutory quangos. It was all too easy for the sectional interests to capture the quangos operating in their territory.

    And so we are where we are. This is the ‘real’ political economy where the majority of consumers are gouged and productive economic activity is debilitated. It could not be further removed from the ‘economy’ that the academics and researchers analyse and on which they comment and publish. It is far too easy, comfortable and rewarding to operate in this parallel universe of convenient fictions. And it is also far to easy to deflect attention from the reality by ranting about malign external forces.

    Is there any wonder that there is widespread cynicism, mistrust and despondency? But nobody will call it out. They are either enmeshed in this process or they know somebody - a family member, relative or friend - who is enmeshed and who would lose out if some genuine reform were implemented.

    And people shouldn’t be too hard on the IFAC. The key word is ‘advisory’. Government will ensure it won’t stray on to difficult territory and reveal the reality of the political economy. It will take what it likes and ignore what it doesn’t because ‘we decide’. It sickens me that the members, who possess such integrity and capability, are forced to play along with this charade.

  33. David O'Donnell Says:

    Professor Alan Barrett: There are two points to make in this regard. First, as Professor McHale pointed out, we are agnostic on the question of whether or not adjustments should be expenditure-based or taxation-based. [...] Second, on the point of who does better or worse during periods of austerity, I refer to the 1980s, a period during which austerity was essentially postponed. The people who suffered most during that period were lower-income, less educated people….

    I welcome the ‘agnostic’ (and Barrett’s honesty on ESRI record on banking bust]… and there are alternatives to the present budgetary direction:

    The €6 Billion Alternative

    Government Ministers are floating all sorts of horror options (medical card fees, closing hospital beds, cutting education grants and Child Benefit, etc. etc.) while at the same time insisting this is the only alternative to income tax increases. I’m not so sure. So I thought it might be helpful to gather together the proposals put forward in four pre-budget submissions to see if there are other alternatives. Does the Government have options to either savage spending cuts or income tax increases that would hit the living standards of low and average income earners? Can the Government do something else besides degrade public services, hit social protection recipients and further depress consumer demand? The answer is YES.

    http://www.irishleftreview.org/2011/11/24/6-billion-alternative/

  34. seafóid Says:

    I felt sorry for Mary Lou and Richard Boyd Barrett reading that piece. They ask very good questions but of course they are around political economy and not strictly economics. So while the committee might get on with improving some aspects of the economic info flow the DoF remains schtum on everything else and it is as it was in the days of the British.

    Their poor low income constituents . I was reminded of this

    http://jcollyer.wordpress.com/2008/04/11/featured-poem-a-disused-shed-in-co-wexford-by-derek-mahon/

    They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
    To do something, to speak on their behalf
    Or at least not to close the door again.

  35. seafóid Says:

    Shane Ross in 2010 questioning Alan Dukes about the Anglo Board.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RbE4ZHIzvTY#!

    What a great little country. And aren’t those Euros awful to Mr Cardiff ?

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