Sunday 25 February 2018

Government's economic plan lacks detail on growth – watchdog chief

Professor John McHale.
Professor John McHale.

Sarah Stack and Colm Kelpie

THE Government's master plan for economic recovery after the bailout lacked detailed analysis of Ireland's growth challenges, the head of the State's budget watchdog has said.

Professor John McHale, chairman of the Fiscal Advisory Council, said that while the Medium-Term Economic Strategy contained useful details, it could have been more ambitious.

The strategy was unveiled by the Economic Management Council – Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin – last month and set out growth projections for the economy over the next seven years.

Prof McHale said the document should have contained a "diagnostic analysis" of Ireland's growth challenges.

"Even though I think the document has many useful things in it, including setting out ambitious targets which is useful, I think it could have done with more fundamental analysis of what the particular barriers to Irish growth are and how policies could be developed to meet those challenges," Mr McHale told the Irish Independent.

The NUI Galway economics professor noted the Government's pledge that more details would be provided, but he maintained the analysis should have been provided in the strategy document. The plan targets full employment by 2020 and a balanced Budget by 2018, with growth averaging around 3pc per year.

It forecasts that Government debt will fall to 91pc of the value of the economy by 2020 if Ireland enjoys high growth.

But analysts poured cold water on the strategy, saying the plan was more about optics than substance.

Stockbrokers Goodbody said it was disappointed by the lack of detail, while Davy said it was short on any new policy commitments.

The purpose of the Fiscal Advisory Council is to provide an independent assessment of official budgetary forecasts and proposed fiscal policy objectives.

It is made up of five council members and a secretariat of three.

Mr McHale said earlier this month that the council would be getting two extra economists next month, bringing the total to four.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business