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Irish General Election 2011: Dublin Chamber calls for “root & branch” public sector reform; Silent on reform of protected private sector
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Feb 3, 2011 - 5:17 AM
Irish General Election 2011: The Dublin Chamber
of Commerce today calls for “root & branch” public sector reform but has
nothing to say on the protected private sector, where professions are
significantly supported by public funds.
All political parties contesting the election
have been asked today to respond to a select number of pro-business measures
proposed by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to help existing enterprise survive
and grow, to promote entrepreneurship and to create jobs.
The chamber says the abolition of upward only rent reviews, modernisation of
bankruptcy laws, and “root & branch” public sector reform must be part of
the next Programme for Government, according to Dublin Chamber.
The reason why there is little momentum for reform in Ireland despite
national bankruptcy, is because the dominant vested interest groups from the
Left to the Right of the spectrum, have an interest in maintaining the status
quo and protecting existing privileges.
Adam Smith, the author of the 1776 book, The Wealth of Nations, would
have termed it a 'tacit agreement.'
Of course, public sector reform is long overdue
and is proceeding at the speed of a glacier.
However, it's also relevant to repeat the point
out that multimillionaire tribunal lawyers are continuing to make hay as public
contractors; medical consultants can charge over €200 for a 15-20 minute
consultation; an insolvency firm quoted NAMA €800 per hour for an assignment and
was allowed hide behind a Victorian veil of secrecy; GPs in Ireland get paid
€38.95 to administer the seasonal flu vaccine to patients. In the UK GPs get
paid £7.51 (€8.30) for doing the same job and the State health insurer VHI has
to hike premiums by as much as 45% to pay for featherbedding.
The National Competitiveness Council says that Irish medical consultants are the
highest paid in the OECD area (comprising all the world's developed countries),
earning almost double the salaries in countries such as Finland and Norway.
This week, the Oireachtas Public Accounts
Committee published a report which shows that public bodies are the largest
procurers of legal services in the State with an estimated spend of anything up
The Committee said it heard evidence to suggest
that the cost of legal services in Ireland is amongst
the highest in the developed world and it has been suggested that the State
itself is one of the primary drivers of high legal costs.
Overall, the report stated that the likely cost
to the State of three public tribunals based on the pattern of costs experienced
to date is estimated to be in the range of €336m to €366m.
The Committee also reported that five of the
barristers working for the Mahon (Planning) and Moriarty tribunals earned in
excess of €5m, with two of them earning almost €10m.
The Committee referred to "three senior counsel at the Moriarty Tribunal being paid €2,500
a day for an extraordinary 304 days in 2008. The Moriarty Tribunal sat in public
session for an average of 20 days in each of the past three years. The report
advised that there were no specific attendance records for the legal teams
maintained at the Morris and Mahon Tribunals. The Moriarty Tribunal records
attendance of tribunal legal team members but does not take account of arrival
and departure times."
The Committee "was exercised to learn that at
the Moriarty Tribunal, an extra €1m has been
paid to counsel because of an error in the Department of the Taoiseach, where
counsel have been paid a per diem rate of €2,500 instead of €2,250 and where the
matter was allowed continue without rectification."
This surely encapsulates the failure of Irish
governance and the system that allows lawyers as public contractors to become
multimillionaires in a small country, while in some cases investigating bribes
lower than they themselves are getting paid per day.
These wealthy people like their political
masters, have got their gilt-edged meal-tickets for life while many of the
victims of the failed system, remain invisible.
The Dublin Chamber of Commerce said on
Wednesday that the measures included in the Chamber’s election manifesto, will
be unveiled tonight at its AGM Dinner.
Imelda Reynolds, newly elected president of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said:
“The next Government needs a resilient business sector
that will assist in rebuilding the economy and create employment. In order to
grow and generate employment, business needs leadership in Government to affect
change. The perception of Ireland as a so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ built solely on
an overblown construction sector must be changed. The growth of domestic and
exporting trading businesses and employment is fundamental to this perception.”
These initiatives, which Dublin Chamber is asking each political party to commit
to in the election campaign, include:
Reducing the costs faced by business by
outlawing upward-only rent review clauses;- reforming the bankruptcy law to
Pushing for the broadening of the Business
Expansion Scheme with the European Commission; and
Requiring NAMA to release property into the
market to stimulate economic activity
In respect of root and branch reform of the public sector, the Chamber said
required reforms include:- improving productivity in the management and
operation of the public sector and the greater use of outsourcing;
- taking a pro-active approach to privatisation;
- creating an executive Mayor for Dublin, who is responsible for the cost
effective delivery of local services.
To assist the next government in delivering on these proposals Dublin Chamber is
proposing the establishment of an Enterprise Advisory Council, made up of
leading business people, to offer Government practical advice on public policies
and projects which will lead to the development of an enterprise focused
Programme for Government.
The Chamber has also called for a commitment from the next government to invest
in key infrastructure projects to ensure that Dublin is an attractive and
competitive location for business. This includes the swift delivery of the DART
underground and Metro North, sustained investment in next generation broadband,
a second run way at Dublin airport, an upgraded water distribution network, a
waste to energy facility in Poolbeg and the delivery of the Grangegorman Campus.