'Watchdog' aims to act for the Irish people not Government
THE Fiscal Advisory Council was set up in June at the command of the IMF and ECB to give independent assessments of government economic policy.
Led by NUI Galway professor John McHale, it also includes academics Donal Donovan (who also worked for the IMF) and Roisin O'Sullivan (ex-Central Bank), along with Sebastian Barnes from the OECD and Alan Barrett from the Economic and Social Research Institute.
While the Dail has yet to enact a bill to give the council any legal powers or give a precise definition of its purpose, it is already powerful thanks to the calibre of the members and the backing of the IMF and ECB.
At the first press conference yesterday, Mr McHale said the council was conceived to ensure that the mistakes that destroyed our economy in the past decade could never be repeated.
He promised that he and his colleagues would be a "watchdog" acting on behalf of the people and added that he would not be afraid to attack the Government, although the council would steer clear of politics.
That will be a difficult line to walk in the coming months and years when almost every political question is also an economic question.
All five members are offering their services for free, although there is also a small body of paid staff. Whether this is a good idea remains to be seen, as the lack of payment ensures a bias towards well-off people working in the public sector.
Another worry is that the council doesn't produce its own growth forecasts. This will make it difficult to audit the value of its recommendations as most fiscal decisions depend on the accuracy of the underlying projections.