Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Committee on Budgetary Oversight
Pre-Budget 2022 Scrutiny: Irish Fiscal Advisory Council
Mr. Sebastian Barnes:
That is a good question about the risk, given the amount of money involved. There are several parts to this. One is understanding exactly what the Government is planning and how it sees this fitting together. The economics of this would be helpful. We have a list of policies but we do not know what the baseline is.
That would help us to understand what the risks are and what assumptions are being made that may or may not come true, but for these kinds of things we cannot do that assessment.
Second, and this, perhaps, matters less in the short term, but as investment increases the Government will need to continue to monitor it. At some point, it may wish to draw back a little and, having tested it, take the decision that it cannot continue at a particular speed limit and that a plan B and a slower pace may be required. We understand the urgency of the needs but if the economy cannot deliver that, there is no point pumping in money. That is not going to work.
Third, as mentioned earlier by Dr. Casey, the IMF has pointed to a number of areas in Ireland where the management of public investment in the past has not been particularly strong. We can all think of prominent examples of that from recent years. There are a number of institutional changes at the core of the council's expertise. There are a number of areas where it can move to international best practice in terms of cost benefit analysis and the way that things are improved. We are talking about a great deal of money and it is important that value for money is delivered.