Reform of the Public Expenditure Framework

One of the documents released today explains the reform of the budgetary process, including a greater role for Oireachtas Committees, a year-round budget calendar and multi-year expenditure envelopes. The aim is to ‘outdo’ what is required along these dimensions under the new European-level fiscal governance directive.

14 replies on “Reform of the Public Expenditure Framework”

complete self serving waffle and a total disgrace. Shows exactly why we are in the mess we are in with this mindset. I would to sack every last one of them.

Knowing what is needed to be done, I like the sound of these words, though will be interested to see the changes.

Also this is only starting to scratch the surface of the Fin Control/Performance Management information deficiencies – and I hope Minister Howlin recruits people with competency in those areas

It would be churlish not to welcome the good intentions presented in this document.

I am heartened by the following:
“As part of the new VFM arrangements, a Public Service Evaluation Network will be established. The Network will be led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and will bring together officials from across Government Departments and Agencies to pool expertise and experience and improve the quality and coverage of evaluations.

Ireland has a wide community of experts in academia and beyond engaged in research and analysis, much of which is policy-relevant. In the past there has been insufficient engagement between experts and Government Departments. The Network will go some way to addressing this weakness by harnessing outside expertise for the improvement of policy outcomes.”

But the weasel words, inevitably, creep in. We’re told nothing about how or when this Network will be establsihed. I expect all will be revealed in “due course”. And the Network will go “some way” to addressing this suddenly discovered deficiency. Why not declare a commitment to go “all the way” – and not just in the fiscal area but across all areas of public policy? As I’ve said before Ireland is blessed by having no shortage of competent, knowledgeable economists and similar people from other disciplines who have much to contribute in the public policy sphere.

And these words have a familiar ring – though I expect it’s just a coincidence:
“Up to now, the entire budgetary process has been a closed and secretive affair, with expenditure allocations effectively decided by the Government behind closed doors. Dáil Éireann is formally responsible for voting through the Estimates of Expenditure each year: but in practice, the
precise allocations brought forward by Government tend to be a fait accompli, as there are no mechanisms for advance parliamentary input into the resource allocation process.”

The various proposals by the Government to open up this process to advance scrutiny is welcome, but what not announce a commitment to do so for all public policy proposals. This smacks of grubby politics. Exposing what is being spent on various programmes, groups and sectors will make it far easier to arouse public disgust and to secure public support for cutbacks. Exposing what is being spent in terms of ‘tax expenditures’ or what is lost in terms of a badly designed taxation regime might be less politic. And exploring the underlying dysfunctions in the economy to which these policies are applied would obviously be a bridge too far.

Still, marks for effort, but full marks are a long, long way from being secured. And I have grave doubts about the desire or commitment of this Government to attempt to secure them.

It’s almost a year since I discovered your great site and started annoying you about an urgent need for a radically ( really!) new “industrial”/enterprise strategy and a completely revolutionary attitude towards “emigration”/systematically incorporating WORKING experience outside Ireland into the NECESSARY skills and competency sets of all young ( and older) people in Ireland. ( My comments are just as relevant to France, where I have been based while working internationally for the last 30 years.)

On the Kenny “state-of-the-nation” speech thread, Paul Hunt informed me that Kenny’s claim that 50 public expenditure-consuming quangos were being culled amounted to “re-clustering” rather than culling.

In the context of getting demonstrable value for public expenditure in Ireland, particularly as it relates to job creation and work for Irish citizens in Ireland and abroad as well as people legitimately seeking to live and work in Ireland, I have yet to see a realistic analysis of what needs to be done other than more of the same, “it’s beyond our control” and “it will take time”. ( Gratifyingly, “The Smart Economy” and other such slogans seem to have sunk without trace).

Today’s New York Times (International Herald Tribune) features a front page article on Ireland’s “harsh debt cure” as well as a full-colour photo of an Irish couple and their children “planning to leave their home in Ireland for Australia, hoping to earn a decent living.”

In the same edition of the newspaper, in an article entitled “China reaches for high-tech dominance”, the following quotes appear:

“What I found in doing 5 start-ups in China is the culture makes Silicon Valley looks laid back and slow.”

“China is now the world’s second-largest largest venture capital market while the US market has remained stagnant.”

“Overnight, there is lots of lots of activity coming from Beijing …and there is little question that the structure of Chinese industry is becoming more innovation-oriented.”

“At the same time there is a consensus that China’s entrepreneurs have a workaholic nature that is unmatched anywhere in the world”. ( I would agree wholehearted with this quote having witnessed it last week in Hong Hong, Shanghai and Shenzhen).

“We’ve now combined the best thinkers in the US sitting side by side with the people who are best at manufacturing in the world”

“There is deep embedding and research and design culture driving a company like Foxconn, the Taiwan manufacturer with extensive operations in mainland China that has done much of Apple’s assembly work.”

Here are my questions:

How much Irish public money is been spent on incorporating China and what is happening there – (not “growing” our almost non-existent exports!) into Irish enterprise strategy? Attracting Chinese investors and entrpreneurs into Ireland? Teaching Irish people to speak Mandarin? Attracting Chinese tourists, students and graduate students? Encouraging Irish graduates to work and learn in China?

Emigration schmemigration! If we want the world to come to us, we’ll have to rediscover! our ability to go to the world!

Whether IN Europe or NOT IN Europe … fiscal governance is a great idea.

As to ‘The Golden Rule’ to arrive early this Friday, the PD/FF penchant for gross pro-cyclical encyclicals will assume into law, and the downturn will continue until the Irish are at napoleonic levels of welfare, malthusian levels of reproduction, and in equilibrium with the equation for sheep and spalpeen shepards originally drafted by Lord Salisbury, with some minor exceptions for guantanimo type plantations where forms of fdi may be reconfigured and financial system tentacles may be repaired and regenerated.

Conversely, An Evaluation Network which actually works might simply speak one word “NO” and take one action “Sever the Tentacle around the Necks of the Citizenry”, hence reversing all of the above.

Off thread

I am very surprised to hear that there is carry over of €600 million from 2011 taxes to a full year 2012.
There is no way that there is any such carry over.
The big change was USC and the only carry over should be 7% of one month’s PAYE.

I cannot see 600M. Not by a long chalk.


The carryover should be one month’s portion of the increase in USC from 2010 to 2011. Not 600M.

If implemented, these proposals should make for better policy development and provision. There should be an end to the single “we had a budget to spend on x, we spent y% of the budget” indicator, but is the capacity- and the will- there to implement such an approach?

Breaking Newz: Salvation is at hand for a lucky few …. [7_of_Nine; intergalactic comms.

The most Earth-like planet ever discovered is circling a star 600 light years away, a key finding in an ongoing quest to learn if life exists beyond Earth, scientists have said.

This is the first detection of a potentially habitable world orbiting a Sun-like star, scientists reported in findings to be published in The Astrophysical Journal . Kepler-22b is 600 light years away. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, about 10 trillion km.

A chat with “Q”, loan of the Enterprise from the Minister for Serfdom, and a few of us could begin anew on a Tentacles_free Kepler-22b before the EZ crisis is sorted out or/and an Irish policy report is actually acted on.

@Richard Fedican
With regard to things Chinese you are on the button. However there is little real change here. The primary and secondary educational system is too inflexible as it is controlled by people who think that pretending to teach people to speak Irish for 12 years is very important and any changes to the many years wasted in this pursuit produce very vocal outrage from those with vested interests (financial).

One point to note is that the proposal to set up a large Chinese trade center in the midlands has got planning permission. This interesting project looks to have potential if it gets up and running.

@Áine Uí Ghiollagáin,

Agree. On reflection, the test for me is how this Public Service Evaluation Network will work. It appears that it will be comprised of officials from across departments and will pull in external expertise. It would be interesting to know if any of our principal contributors here have any insights on this. Though, I expect, if they do, they’ll stay shtum. Alternatively, this might be just a kite-flying exercise.

Even if there is some substance to this the external expertise will probably be locked in to the Departments. There is no indication that the Dail’s ability to secure external resources to aid its scrutiny will be enhanced.

It will probably turn out to be a handy little supplementary earner for selected academics, consultants and the like.

We don’t want to overdo this scrutiny thingy you see. It’s good for the optics when you want to pull the wool over the Troika’s eyes, but you wouldn’t want to take it too seriously. The business of Government is far too important to allow too much of this scrutiny thingy.

@ Joseph Ryan

“I cannot see 600M. Not by a long chalk.”

Why are you so surprised? Maybe, it is another one of those €3.6 bn type of accounting “errors”.

@Brian Mercer

Thanks for paying attention, Brian. I’m aware that that I’m probably on the wrong thread here ( not for the first time!) but my first trip back to Asia in a few years only confirmed impressions I formed back when I first went and later when I managed Asians ( mostly Chinese) in offices I opened for my former organisation.

Michael Hennigan reacted by commenting that the “software” there will take time to catch up with the ( infrastructural) hardware and Seafoid made more or less the same comment.

Of course it will take time but on this trip I was particularly struck by how fast this is happening.

My first inkling came at dinner in Hong Kong with a Chinese engineer and his wife who had spent ten years in the UK who commented that some members of her family were still “stuck” in Europe!

In Vietnam, the entrepreneurial vigour, even in the back streets of Hanoi, is astonishing.

In Vientiane, the young night manager ( who printed my flight confimation for me and wanted to know whether he’d paid a low enough price for his tablet computer) was an electrical engineer working with Electricité de Laos doing two jobs and motorbiking between them from his home 20 miles outside the city.

My driver in Luang Prabang didn’t have very good English but every time I asked him what a strange-looking vegetable or fish was in the Hmong markets we visited far to the north, he rang up his English-speaking friend on his mobile, asked the question in Lao and his friend told me the answer in English. Every new building, road, dam or power station was indicated by a pointing finger and the word “China”.

I guess my point is that the prevailing mood in the small number of “developed” and “developing” Asian countries I visited on this recent trip is light years removed from the ‘crisis’ mentality in Europe and the US.

More importantly, the young people, while passionately invested in the clear opportunities in their own countries, are all extremely curious and actively “hungry” for working experience elsewhere.

I’ll end this rant with three further quotes from today’s New York Times, the one that had the front page photo of the Irish family emigrating to Australia for a “decent life”:

“What scares competitors is that China has begun producing waves of amazing hardware engineers and software programmers winning international competitions and and beginning to dominate the best engineering programmes in the US”.

“Investors have plumped for a semiconductor company begun with lead designers in San Diego and support engineers in Shanghai. It was the Shanghai team that came up with the groundbreaking innovation.”

“Chinese computer science “returnees” have left Princeton University to create an an institute in Tsinghua university in Beijing that has already made breakthroughs in in game theory and computer security.”

” …recent testimony to a US congressional committee that the Chinese had overtaken South Korea and Europe in total patents and were catching up with Japan”.

What, in policy statements by Irish politicians, or in current Irish enterprise policy, not to mention educational policy, will match these attitudes or mirror these developments?

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