Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has today published legislation to establish a robust system for the costing of the election proposals of all political parties. The process would operate under the aegis of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and would be independent of the Department of Finance.

Deputy McGrath commented: “The Government have been dragging their feet on this issue. While they have made various promises of an independent process for the costing of policy proposals, in particular the manifestos of the main parties, they have done nothing to facilitate this in practice. In fact the Minister for Finance recently told me in the Dáil that it is “unlikely that such an office would be established in advance of the next general election.”

“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 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 State 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 individuals 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.”

Deputy McGrath added: “The establishment of a budget costing office under the Fiscal Council would call for a full examination of proposals including how proposals interact with each other. The flaws in the current process are further highlighted by the fact that I have still not received replies in respect of a request for a costing of relatively straightforward changes to the regime for prescription charges submitted nine months ago. The current system is inadequate and we proposing a realistic way in which it can be changed.”

Fiscal Responsibility (Amendment) Bill 2015