November 30, 2020
Minister for Finance undermining credibility of Irish Fiscal Advisory Council – Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance, Pearse Doherty TD, has criticised the Minister for Finance for undermining the credibility of the State’s budget watchdog, with the Council at risk of having only two positions of its 5-member Council filled by the beginning of 2021.

Teachta Doherty criticised new legislation before the Seanad today which would increase the length of time members could serve on the Council from 8 to 12 years, saying it undermines the Council’s credibility.

Teachta Doherty said:

“The Irish Fiscal Advisory was set up as part of a wider agenda of budgetary reform after the Fianna Fáil Government of the time torpedoed the Irish economy.

“It was established to scrutinise Government budgetary and fiscal policy.

“Under the legislation, the Council has 5 members with no member allowed to serve more than two 4-year terms in a row.

“The purpose of this was to ensure that fresh voices and new perspectives were brought into the Council. These term limits exist in other jurisdictions to safeguard the credibility of budget watchdogs.

“Since the beginning of the year the Council has been reduced to four members, after former chair Seamus Coffey finished his term.

“This is despite the legislation requiring a vacancy on the Council to be filled within 6 months.

“Now another two members are due to finish at the end of this year, reducing the number of Council members to two with three vacancies.

“One of these members, the current chair Sebastian Barnes, has been on the council since 2012 and is coming to the end of his second 4-year term.

“To avoid the embarrassment of there being more vacancies than sitting members, the Minister is introducing legislation to allow Mr. Barnes to remain on the council for a third 4-year term.

“This is inappropriate and undermines the credibility of the State’s budget watchdog. Having a member on the Council for more than a decade does not promote fresh thinking in the face of new challenges, but instead fosters conservatism on the Council.

“This is not to call into question the role played by Mr. Barnes, but the actions of the Government to damage Council.

“The Council should not be undermined to spare the Minister for Finance embarrassment.”

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