‘Solving debt problems of some may involve others paying more’

Solving debt problems for one section of the population will have to involve other people paying more, the Department of Finance has warned.

Setting out its strategy statement for 2011 to 2014, it said finding solutions to the problem of distressed mortgages and difficulties with personal debt will be one of its goals for the next three years.

It says the “improvement of living standards for all our citizens” is one of its key objectives, and this will involve a “fair resolution of the problem of excess debt of citizens”.

However, it says this must be done “in a way which encourages speedy but equitable resolution of the problems, recognising that solving the problems of some sectors of the population may require the use of public funds contributed by others”.

The department said it wants to move away from crisis management towards better strategic planning for the future.

It promised “bravery and inventiveness” in the development of new policy and to play a “robust role” in challenging the advice it receives.

The department’s new secretary general, John Moran, said reports criticising the department’s actions during the boom leading up to the crisis spoke for themselves and it was his job to “look forward”.

He said the Government had agreed to lift the recruitment embargo to allow the department to hire where there were “key needs” and promised to hold an open competition for a new head of banking and a new head of economics.

At present, there are 74 people in the department with qualifications in economics and 24 of these have a master’s degree.

New economists will be hired under an “enhanced economic policy division” which will also include committee-style discussions on policy areas with people from across the department.

“We haven’t been taking in new graduates for many, many years which of course is a problem for succession planning and new ideas. We need to promote people internally and back fill those gaps,” said Mr Moran.

A Google-style training scheme will be put in place to ensure workers develop their skills, he said.

The department is also planning to recruit short-term workers on secondment from the private sector as well as other treasuries across Europe to promote the “sharing of ideas”.

He said the system would have to be controlled so people did not pass sensitive information to their companies. “These people sign in blood the Official State Secrets Act before they are able to come in and work in the department,” he said.

Target list

Department of Finance goals 2011-2014:

* Setting up an economic planning unit including the recruitment of economists.

* Find solutions to the problem of distressed mortgages and personal debt.

* Enhance its international division to play a greater role in the development of policies for recovery.

* Return Ireland to the private debt markets and exit the EU/IMF bailout at the earliest possible date.


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