FAS scandal was national disaster, says top OECD economist
THE FAS scandal in 2008 was a "national disaster" that decimated the state training body just as it was needed like never before, a top economist said yesterday.
John Martin, who is director of employment with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), claimed the FAS spending debacle hit confidence in the agency when the country could least afford it.
"At the time (amid rising unemployment) when we needed a high performing employment service what did we have?
"We had a massive crisis, a loss of confidence (in FAS)," he said.
The Government is to merge FAS and related welfare services into the National Employment and Entitlements Service -- a move Mr Martin is in favour of and which had been recommended by the OECD for a decade. He warned, however, that there was a hard slog ahead for the new body.
"Creating this in good times would have been difficult but creating it in bad times, when we really need the thing to work quickly, is a huge challenge.
"There is also the need to rebuild the confidence of employers in what were FAS services, so I think it will take several years to set it up and get it working properly," he added.
Mr Martin, who was addressing an InterTrade Ireland conference, claimed it would be several years before the current unemployment rate of 14pc was reduced substantially.
"Given that we have the third-highest unemployment in the OECD, there's a very hard road ahead. Much will depend on how the eurozone problem plays out."
On the Croke Park agreement, Mr Martin added: "At a time when wages and private sector salaries are adjusting rapidly it would be prudent to also put into the hopper public sector wages and working conditions."