Thursday, May 10, 2012

Irish Department of Finance: Empty new 'strategy' for grim times

John Moran, the new Secretary General of the Irish Department of Finance has issued a revision of a  'strategy' document for the period 2011-2014.

Moran is an outsider but it would be hard to detect that from the document which is very light on strategy and is just a set of aspirations. He says: 'Since 2008 pay and non-pay costs have fallen significantly reflecting a fall in staffing and associated supports. This fall in investment in the Department makes it impossible for us to achieve our overriding strategic goals set by ourselves and by the Government.'

He is seeking more staff even though the 600+ total during the boom were mainly fragile flower type Trappist monks who went with the flow. There is no real evidence of change now.

The document can be accessed from a thread on the Irish economy blog

The following are two posts from Michael Hennigan:

Post 1:

I wish I didn’t have to be negative but this is a pathetic little document that says virtually nothing about the operations of an organisation that failed when tested by fire but lists 54 mainly budget commitments and details other national policy goals.

Performance measures will include among others: Per capita income; International surveys of standards of living; Distribution of income; Levels of employment.

- - as if anyone will be held to account.

There is a reference to staffing but I cannot find the actual number and the Irish Times didn’t report it earlier in its story.

A figure of 636 was used in another document for 2011 which included Howlin’s offshoot. Together with the CSO that is a staff of 1,500.

The 600+ are not gathering data but analysing, forecasting, budget preparation, EU liaison etc

‘Impossible’ indeed. This seems excessive for the finance function in a small country.

The argument is that boomtime staff levels and pay/pensions are needed to do the job well…

…a different world for some

In December 2005, 30 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) flew to Hong Kong to “monitor” progress in the Doha trade talks, where they demanded almost daily updates from Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, despite the fact that as parliamentarians they had no role in the negotiations. The total of trips by official parliamentary delegations in 2005 was 43.

Three Irish ministers brought an entourage of 21 civil servants to the same meeting.

The 24 Irish officials were joined by 16 other Irish freeloaders from lobby groups such as IFA (farmers) and IBEC (business) and representatives from groups on behalf of the world’s poor.

If every one of the then 149 WTO countries brought numbers at the same population ratio as the Irish, it would have been some barney!

Dipak Patel, Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade & Industry in 2005, who was the Chair-Co-ordinator for the Least Developed Countries at WTO negotiations Jan-Dec 2005 said: “…the Financial Times has a bigger trade team than our entire trade division.”
Post 2:

It’s striking that given the crushing of internal dissent during the bubble that an outsider doesn’t make it clear that internal and external dissent is welcome.

Of course the old culture still prevails.

So anyone angling for a quango or state board appointment or membership of those odd contraptions known as taskforces, steering or review groups, steer clear of this thread.

Any negativity is bound to be noted and you will forfeit a handy earner and the honour of being dubbed an ‘expert’ by RTÉ, or a ‘person of standing’ by David Begg, former central banker.

Just to forestall some vested interest calling me be a begrudger, I have never asked for anything for myself from an department or politician, irrespective of party.

When I was at UCC, I did draft a letter to the DoJ for an illiterate neighbour who wanted to become a peace commissioner. He did get the position.