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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Nov 26, 2010 - 6:32:15 AM


Four Year Budget Plan: Ireland's first steps in long march; Real reform dependent on IMF
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Nov 25, 2010 - 4:45:30 AM

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Sick leave has jumped since the 1980's in the Irish civil service. On average, 59% of all Irish public staff availed of sick leave in 2007. The average employee was absent, on average, for just over 11 days and sick leave has doubled since the 1980's.

Four Year Budget Plan: The Government on Wednesday took the first steps in the long march to fiscal solvency in 2014 but the IMF (International Monetary Fund) will have to push through real reform in the conservative system with its entrenched vested interests.  

Raising taxes and cutting welfare payments are the easy parts with the external overseers to pass the buck to. However, the people responsible for implementing glacial change in the public service are the same individuals who went with the comfortable flow in the good years while politicians have a poor record in facing down the mainly wealth interests in the protected private sector.

From the early 1950s, when the Catholic Church opposed 'socialised' medicine and found common cause with devotees of the God Mammon in the medical professions, the protected professions have comfortably handled the schizophrenic existence of being both socialists and capitalists.

Big firms depend on the public sector for dependable cash flow and the plan (pdf) promises some actions but likely ineffective: 

  • Competition in the professions will be promoted and overseen by an independent figure, reporting regularly to Government.
  • The Government will identify further ways to tackle increases in insurance costs, building on achievements of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
  • All the restrictions on appropriately trained General Practitioners who wish to hold GMS contracts will be abolished.
  • Provide for a more structured approach to mediation in the legal system and promote further the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution taking into account recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Final Report 2010 on the subject.
  • A package of measures to reduce legal costs will be implemented, including
  • increased use of tendering by the State;
  • prioritising publication and enactment of the Legal Costs Bill; and
  • additional proposals for legislation to reduce legal costs, drawing on the recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group and the Competition Authority.
  • Provide for increased use of arbitration and mediation.
We at Finfacts have long advocated an end to Victorian secrecy on public contracts by having full transparency over a minimum value. It would seem a better route than appointing an 'independent figure.'

There is the overweight, unaccountable governance system overdue for reform and for example 88 planning authorities in a small country.

The so-called Bord Snip group report has many examples of egregious waste and abuse of public funds; lawyers 10 years to retirement age getting a full public pension entitlement on becoming judges; academics having the 'legitimate expectation' of getting additional pension years added as if they are cost-free and so on. 

Then there is the culture of the 'bank hour' to cash a pay cheque even though payments are made electronically; 'privilege days' for travel time dating from ancient times to facilitate civil servants at Christmas and Easter and at bank holidays; a work week of 33 hours; high absenteeism; the FT reported that public employees are given paid time off to attend local race meetings and arts festivals. In County Leitrim, public sector workers used to get paid time off to attend a local regatta on the River Shannon. Even when the regatta was discontinued, the free-day tradition persisted. When Leitrim’s public servants were finally forced to forsake their day off for the discontinued regatta, trade unions secured compensation for the workers affected.

Ireland setting out its four-year austerity plan to save €15bn, with Brian Lenihan, Ireland's Finance Minister, and CNBC's Guy Johnson:

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General published in October 2009 said sick leave has jumped since the 1980's in the Irish civil service with the absence rate rising from 3.3% to almost 5% of available working time, which was lost to sickness absence in 2007. On average, 59% of all staff employed availed of sick leave in that year. The average employee was absent, on average, for just over 11 days.

Members of the Garda Síochána retire at the age of 50 with full pension rights and they are entitled to choose the three base years i.e. where their overtime earnings were highest, to determine their final award.

Hundreds of State agencies known as quangos, are protected from redundancy despite having better pay and pension conditions than those in the decimated private sector.

Public employees like Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and senior civil servants will continue to live comfortable lives despite the misery their actions or non-actions have brought to tens of thousands of their victims.

The only hope is that the IMF will help to create a fairer Irish society and set the base for a sustainable economy.

Finfacts Budget 2011 Page

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