The post-Covid-19 world will see emergency state support for workers and businesses replaced by a wave of redundancies and pay cuts that will pile yet more pressure on household budgets that were already severely stretched. And, doubtless, we’ll be reminded – probably constantly – by the Taoiseach in the next government of the need to cut public spending and the deficit. Leo Varadkar described it this week, when negotiations with Fianna Fáil and the Green were getting nowhere, as “economic honesty”.
Economic prudence will need to be exercised by state agency managers and will come under renewed scrutiny in the coming years with every cent needing to be justified. Recent examples of spending which would require stringent oversight include the €172,000 spent by Bord Iascaigh Mhara on overseas travel last year and the €63,000 accommodation and entertainment tab picked up by the Department of Foreign Affairs for the visit in March by the UK’s Prince William, his wife, and their entourage.
While ledger items such as these are very small beer compared to government spending measured in billions, taxpayers and families told that spending on vital public services must be cut – or, at least, frozen – will want to be assured that every cent spent by the state can be justified on stringent cost-benefit tests. Known in the private sector as measuring the bang you get for your buck, it’s a discipline that must be embraced by those who spend the state’s money.