THE members of the Oireachtas Finance Committee convened last night to discuss the macroeconomic projections underpinning Budget 2014 – reflecting their hopes for a more transparent budget process.
To do that, of course, the Committee had to be shown the numbers.
But Department of Finance official John McCarthy said the figures he had available were those based on the original €3.1bn budget adjustment – the "latest formally articulated Government policy" – not the €2.5bn adjustment revealed in this newspaper and confirmed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan earlier in the day
The department would update the predictions, if needed, on Budget day based on the updated figure, the meeting was told. So, in a way, the data that was presented last night is out of date.
Perhaps it was naive to assume that after Finance Minister Michael Noonan revealed his Budget adjustment that the figures in use in his own Department of Finance would reflect the change straight away.
The changes to the total outlook for growth may not be all that great, even with the €600m shift. To be fair to Mr McCarthy, he did estimate during the committee meeting that a €2.5bn adjustment could increase growth by 0.2 percentage points.
But without the updated figures based on the revised Budget adjustment, one was at a loss to understand the point of the meeting. The Fiscal Advisory Council has also been given the old numbers. It has already endorsed them.
So committee members and the economists at the budgetary watchdog have been asked to work with numbers we know don't fully reflect the budgetary arithmetic.
That's a concern as we are about to move into a supposed new era of budget transparency.