Irish budget speeches in the 21st Century

At last week’s Irish Economic Association conference, Mark Coughlan presented a paper analysing the text of successive Finance Ministers’ budget speeches, as evidence of shifts in policy emphasis, but also in the political economy and management of boom and bust economics. The slides are here and are worth a look.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

4 replies on “Irish budget speeches in the 21st Century”

Another aspect of Irish Budgets is the absence of any comment by the Minister on the likely economic affect of the announced measures- will it reduce economic activity or not , if so by how much?. Similarly, there is never any mention of the structural budget position, which is now a key constraint on all euro governments. A final point, striking in Ireland’s case, is the divergence between the fiscal targets as announced by the Minister and the outturns, with very large errors, both positive and negative, observed in the past.

Like all political set-pieces, Budget Day speeches are PR-speak with a range of audiences to be ‘hooked’ or placated, starting with the government parliamentary parties ranked behind and then fanning out to an array of external stakeholders. And then there’s the media, in the role of clerical intermediaries, whose role is to contemporaneously interpret the ‘meaning’ of the Minister’s statements (and the supporting documentation prepared by his officials and agents where the real meat is conclealed) for the benefit of all of those likely to be affected by the policy direction.

The presentation is very clever and entertaining. But I’m not convinced that it can on its own demonstrate anything particularly meaningful beyond the rhetorical limitations of successive Irish Ministers for Finance since the year 2000. Incidentally, since the Department of Finance was split in two by the current government, shouldn’t Minister Howlin’s contributions also be included?

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