As John McHale prepares to step down from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, he can scan across the positives of the Irish economy since the watchdog was set up at the height of the crisis.
Unemployment has more than halved from the crisis peak to 7.3%; huge levels of emigration are no longer inflicting ever deeper scars; and the Irish 10-year bond is no longer flashing red for default, helped in no small part by the belated grip the ECB has taken to keep the euro bloc from falling apart.
In his swansong, Prof McHale nonetheless had to admonish the Government’s spending plans.
It would be one thing to inadvertently break EU spending controls if rocked by some economic earthquake, but it is unwise to plan to break Brussels’ rules from the get go.
The watchdog said the Government is guilty of planning to overspend by €200m beyond what the EU allows in 2017, even before accounting for breaches in the Lansdowne Road public pay accords. The EU won’t give its final assessment until spring.
There is a problem, too, with the timing of the IFAC assessments.
IFAC effectively endorses before budget day the Government’s macroeconomic forecasts, and assesses the budget sums after the budget, in late November.
A start could be made in revising the schedule of these assessments.
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