Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has called for the establishment of a robust system for the costing of election proposals of all political parties. Under legislation he has published the process would be undertaken by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and be independent of the Department of Finance.
Deputy McGrath commented: “We are now entering the final run-up to the General Election. Political parties and the various alliances will be bringing forward their proposals to deal with the range of economic and social issues that the country faces. The General Election will represent the opportunity for the public to pass their verdict on the policy platforms put in front of them. It is vital that the electorate in making their choice, as to who to select as their representatives, are afforded as much information as possible.
“In fact since the start of 2015 Ministers have been falling over themselves to make promises on everything from paid paternity leave to income tax cuts and social welfare increases. What has been remarkable is that these proposals have either not been costed, have subsequently been dropped, denied or described as unaffordable in parliamentary replies.
“Full transparency as to the cost of the cumulative impact of manifesto proposals would greatly enhance the quality of debate in the run up to the general election. The current government parties promised a “democratic revolution” but in fact they have been actively seeking to frustrate democratic debate, regularly guillotining Dáil debates, failing to provide detailed replies to parliamentary questions and refusing to facilitate opposition parties in providing reasonable information for policy formulation.
“Our legislation would mandate the Fiscal Council to carry out an analysis on behalf of qualifying political parties in relation to the effect that manifesto proposals would, in the opinion of the Fiscal Council, have on the budgetary position of the Sate in advance of a General Election.
To ensure a fair and transparent process we also propose:
- The process would also be extended to pre-budget proposals on an annual basis.
- Political parties would themselves be obliged to provide draft costings.
- The Fiscal Council may publish its final analysis with the consent in writing of the political party in question;
- The Fiscal Council may publish all or part of its final analysis where it believes it is necessary to do so to correct any inaccurate statement made by the political party in question or a member or representative of same.
“The current process is entirely unsatisfactory. In advance of the last budget Fianna Fáil submitted a large number of tax related costings by means of PQs as well as individual items directly to the Department of Finance. In July 2014 we were advised by the Department of Finance that:
“the Department will cost the individual measures on their own merit (and on a standalone basis) and provide an individual cost or yield for each measure only”
and “unlike in the costing of the final Budget package that is presented on Budget day, no aggregate savings or yields will be provided in this costing exercise. The costing exercise will not examine the interaction of individual measures with other tax and/or expenditure measures and therefore, no impact is taken of the second round impacts of measures proposed, such as their positive or negative impact on economic growth, job creation, inflation or their impact on tax buoyancy.”
“The establishment of a budget costing office under the Fiscal Council would allow for a full examination of proposals including how proposals interact with each other.
“The public have demanded a change to how politics is conducted in this country. Providing an independent source of information on the cost of election proposals would be a significant step in this direction,” concluded Deputy McGrath.