Monday, October 02, 2006

No need for public spending worries with permanent Irish property boom!

The news that aides/handlers or spinmeisters of Bertie Ahern and Michael McDowell were working together over the weekend, on an agreed 5 minute act of contrition in the form of a statement to Dáil Éireann on Tuesday on nixers earned by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Finance, has coincided with a report on overtime bonanzas garnered by public servants in 2005. So don't fret for those 'selfless' individuals burning the midnight oil! While some were on overtime, others on top salaries, were protecting their own jobs as well as Ahern's and McDowell's.

Possibly 25 man-days have been spent working on the five minute act of contrition/statement!

There are of course few if any areas of life without self-interest.

The story that one public servant earned €150,000 in overtime and others earned more than €40,000 in overtime, may evoke a shrug of the shoulders at a time when the property boom is funding up to 20% of annual public spending in the State. The Health Service Executive, meanwhile, paid out €585.6m in overtime in 2005.

Irish public service salaries have risen by 59% in the past five years and the payroll has expanded by 38,000 extra staff.

Increases in public sector over the period due to general rounds total €2,479m (or 24.3%), “special” pay increases (primarily Benchmarking) total €1,328m (or 13%), and other factors (such as extra numbers) total €2,193m (or 21.6%).

The increase in the average industrial wage for a male worker in the period 2001-2005, was 19%.

The Exchequer’s annual wages and pensions bill increased sharply from €10.2 billion in 2001 to €16.2bn last year, with what has been termed "benchmarking" accounting for up to €1.32bn of the rise. The number of public servants grew by 38,760, or 18%, since 2001 to 257,013 last January. The education sector saw the biggest increase with pay costs rising by 65%. Health sector pay surged by 63% in the period, civil service salaries rose 48% and in the security sector they rose by 34.8%.

Public sector pay rose by 8% in 2005 and pensions now account for 10% of the total pay bill, up from 8.6% in 2001. The pensions bill has increased from €876m in 2001 to €1,588m in 2006 representing an 81.3% increase over the period. The increase in the health sector has been 104%. Pensioners also received the special benchmarking increase of an average of 9%.
With the Government collecting an average of €100,000 from the cost of every new housing unit built in the State, prudently managing public funds is not surprisingly a pressing issue with civil servants.

Won't it all be grand if the housing boom lasts forever and if not, guess which areas civil servants tasked with coming up with public spending cutbacks, will focus on??