Government reneging on Budget transparency

22 October 2017

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has accused the Government of reneging on commitments on budget transparency in Budget 2018 and making political debate about budgetary choices for the years ahead practically impossible.

Deputy Howlin said:

“New politics is increasingly looking like the old politics.”

“While people tired around discussions around fiscal space at the last election it had one huge advantage. It kept political parties honest. It was the basis on which they could set out their electoral stall in accordance with independent figures from the Department of Finance and the Fiscal Advisory Council, on the level of new resources likely to be available each year. Such discipline in my view is central to ensuring our economic debates are both sensible and sustainable.

“This year, as pointed out by RTE Economic Editors, Sean Whelan, the table indicating the fiscal space available from Budget 2019 onwards is no longer published in the budget documentation.

“The only projections afforded are revenue and expenditures cash figures out to 2021 with a general statement to the effect that they include some existing commitments and the Programme for Government commitments. There is no mention of demographic factors which previously were outside the compilation of the fiscal space.

“In response to Mr Whelan’s query the Minister for Finance has admitted that such calculations will be undertaken ‘interally’ but will no longer be made publicly available because he wishes to concentrate on his budgetary stance. He seems fearful that if Ministers and departments know how much is available within the fiscal rules they will want to spend it.

“We’re back to the days of Merrion Street knows best.

That may be good enough for Ministers in this Government but it is not good enough for the Opposition nor is it good for the public.

“We are entitled to know how much is available for new measures in either taxation or expenditure so we can arrive at our own preferred budgetary stance. Come election time we need to offer to the electorate our own views on the appropriate budgetary stance so that voters can chose the option that best meets their values.

“Minister Donohoe is probably correct that this poses additional pressures on him and his departments but frankly, that is what accountability is about. Being in sole possession confers a considerable partisan advantage on the Minister and his party.

“We now have a single Minister for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform, though the latter phrase seems redundant.

“Undoubtedly, the intention is to merge the two departments. Simply put, the measures undertaken in response to a catastrophic financial crisis are being unwound. We know where business as usual ended up last time.”


Notes for editors

Sean Whelan Piece –

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