Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Pre-Budget 2022 Scrutiny: Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Mr. Sebastian Barnes:

Those are excellent points. The point made by the Chairman with regard to a distinction between new spend and what is needed for the current spending is really important. It is important for the public to understand that, otherwise it can appear that the Government has allocated billions of euro in extra funding to a particular area and lead the public to wonder why a particular public service is not getting any better. If that is essentially just the money that is needed to pay the wages as they go up for the same people or to reflect higher demographics, people need to understand that distinction between the ongoing costs and new spend. That is an important distinction.

The Chairman makes a very good point in terms of climate and some of the housing issues. On the one hand, we need to understand how it meets the Government's objectives, but that is not very clearly spelled out. We are not really in a position to assess that but we would like to know Government thinking on that so that we can understand the risks around it. On the other hand, we need to see a joined up approach to thinking on these subjects. For example, in the housing area, one of the things that the Government spends a lot of money on is housing supports. As rents go up in the private sector, that means more people need that help and it becomes more costly to provide. There is a great deal of feedback going on the public finances and housing costs, housing generally and, as mentioned by the Chairman, climate and health and many other factors. These are very good parts of economic planning, some of which would help us to understand the fiscal implications and many of which will help to understand the policies more generally.

Professor McMahon might want to come in on this too.


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