Monday 16 January 2017

All the Government's promises are based on factors outside its control

The new Programme for Government is basically a statement of aspirations, writes Colm McCarthy

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

MATTER OF FACT: Writer Brendan Behan once defined an ‘Irish fact’ as anything that has been repeated three times in public — such as the oft-repeated lament that the recent economic recovery has been confined to the Dublin area.
MATTER OF FACT: Writer Brendan Behan once defined an ‘Irish fact’ as anything that has been repeated three times in public — such as the oft-repeated lament that the recent economic recovery has been confined to the Dublin area.

The formation of the new Government has avoided, according to Friday's Red C poll, a second general election which would have produced another hung Dail and little change from February's result. There would have been some form of minority government anyway.

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The 160-page Programme for Government released on Thursday will prove less reliable, as a guide to future policy, than its predecessors. Previous programmes were agreed by incoming coalition governments possessed of a Dail majority and thus able to pass the required measures. This Government's programme is more a statement of aspirations for which parliamentary support may not be forthcoming. Paradoxically, it is much longer than the 2011 plan, a model of brevity at just 64 pages. The 2016 version has a Late Late Show flavour, with goodie-bags for innumerable lobby groups and interests, and a relaxed approach to the financial capacity of the State to sustain extra commitments on spending and tax cuts.

The extra spending will add €6.75bn per annum by 2021, with about half that figure again for the additional cost of tax reductions. Whether the total €10bn per annum becomes available over the next five years depends largely on the buoyancy of government revenue: only if the economy continues to expand at a decent rate will the numbers add up. The programme is in effect a plan to distribute resources whose availability is not guaranteed.

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