Business Irish

Saturday 24 February 2018

Overhaul of public services critical to success in Europe

Brendan Keenan

BETTER public service management and control will be needed if Ireland is to succeed in a changing European Union, a new semi-official report says.

The report, 'Re-finding Success in Europe: the Challenges for Irish Institutions and Policy' is from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), which operates as a thinktank on behalf of the Government and the social partners.

Even the urgent task of budget correction and fixing the banks will need more joined-up thinking in the public sector than has been the case in the past.

"It does not seem possible to achieve the necessary fiscal adjustment without in-depth knowledge of how well different programmes work; how the welfare system can be made more developmental; and which taxes are most supportive of economic growth, employment and sustainability," it says.

NESC says Ireland must do more to compare its performance against the EU in general, and the EU will increasingly require that member states meet the general standard.

"In public finance and banking supervision, the lack of sufficient real benchmarking and diagnostic monitoring, at either EU or national level, eventually had disastrous consequences for the Irish economy," the report says.

"At EU level, the monitoring and coordination of member states' economies was ineffective and there was partial success in enhancing productivity and social inclusion, and in maximising Europe's influence in the world.

"At national level, a period of enhanced business performance, participation, educational attainment and social spending gave way to a property-led boom funded by excessive private-sector lending and borrowing, ending in a severe five-part crisis."

It says this analysis suggests that both the EU and Ireland are at the end of an "unfulfilled decade".

"A minimal condition for successful Irish participation in a range of EU processes is implementation of the Government's reform agenda set out in 'Transforming Public Services'.

"In particular, it will be necessary to move from reliance on input control to greater local autonomy and outcome monitoring.

"In many policy areas, the design and implementation of national policy must be undertaken in -- and can be greatly enhanced by -- a process of European goal setting, benchmarking and improvement. Only states that can do this will succeed in the new Europe," the report adds.

Irish Independent

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