Tuesday 26 September 2017

All Budget queries should be addressed to Bundestag

THE Government's attempts to stop Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton thinking out loud about next December's Budget fly in the face of everything we were told last year about revamping the budgetary decision making process.

Back in December, the Government was anxious to keep in with the troika by insisting that it wanted discussion and was scrapping the old rabbit-out-of-a-hat system which has served us so badly.

It is still the official position that we need some sort of grown-up debate about the budgetary process in Dail committees and elsewhere long before Mr Noonan stands up in the Dail in December.

On Tuesday evening, Public Reform Minister Brendan Howling was busy telling a meeting of mostly foreign surveyors that the "old annual estimates process has been replaced with a modern, multi-annual framework which allows for full transparency about the allocations available to each department over the coming three-year period."

Promised land

This promised land would "open the way for structural, medium-term planning and prioritisation within each area, with full public input and parliamentary oversight," he added with a straight face and just days after his party leader had a hissy fit when a cabinet minister raised completely legitimate questions about the Croke Park Agreement.

The Budget is only five months away and this period includes a lengthy Dail holiday which means it is high time that we began to talk about the spending cuts and significant taxation that lie ahead.

In the absence of a proper debate here, it seems that we will just have to continue relying of the finance committee of the Bundestag to tell us what is coming down the tracks. At least some parliamentarians know how to do their jobs.

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