I have been reading the pin for a long time but only recently registered and paid my dues ( Dail protest and EU Commission complaint).
The issue of public sector reform exercises many people (myself included). But
the lack of hard information on public sector expenditure and scope for reform is frustrating.
The public sector unions repeatedly defend the expenditure and service levels of our public service.
One of the most often repeated assertions is that the OECD report on the public sector -
" OECD Public Management Reviews - Ireland: Towards an Integrated Public Service"
vindicates their position by proving that government spend and size of the public sector in Ireland
is at the lower end of the OECD country average.
I have heard this argument repeated often and in an attempt to further my understanding of the
argument decided to read the report.
The OECD report measures the size of the public sector by the size of the GDP in OECD countries.
By this metric we are indeed at the lower end of public sector sizes and spend.
However if you look at the report in detail - it also states that using
GNP as a metric we are right at the OECD average level of public sector
size and expenditure.
If you look at the executive summary of the OECD report hosted on the bettergov.ie site:
-On page 14 of the report (reference by footnote number 6) it states :
“Once one accounts for the financial flows (profits and other revenues)
entering and leaving the country, however, the level of public expenditure
expressed as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) is much closer to
OECD average levels.”
Footnote 6 at the end of the chapter states:
“Public expenditure as a percentage of GNI in Ireland was 39.8 % in 2004.”
Now also note that these figures are for 2003-04. I bet that if you ran
the calculations for 2007-08 we would be substantially above the OECD
average - given the excessive growth in public expenditure in the last 4
years. This would be an interesting exercise to do.
The other major contentious issue is Benchmarking. I have been told (by friends employed in the public sector)
that an impartial expert group administered the benchmarking process and decided that the public sector was
substantially under-payed relative to its private sector counterpart. I find this hard to believe. Does anyone have
access to the weightings used by the benchmarking authority to value job security, defined pension benefits,
holiday entitlement, etc ? Also how “expert” and impartial were the group ?
The issue of public sector reform exercises me as it appears that the government backs off from
the well-funded, well-organised public sector unions and choses instead to
cut funding from the less well-organised marginalised sectors.
Is it not the case that the distinction between public and private sectors
is outdated now ? Would a sustainable long-term solution be to
abolish the public sector in large part and to create a professional class
of administrators that can be privately contracted by government
departments and moved between departments in response to the changing
pattern of demand across government departments?
Obviously this would not be a suitable model for front line staff involved in policing, health and
education, however administration skills are surely reusable across departments.
So how about a thread specifically related to public sector reform ?
I don’t necessarily mean as a collection of anti-public sector posts but rather as a focus point
for data on the positive and negative aspects of our public sector and on suggestions for reform/improvement ?
(Note I dont wish to be presumptuous in a first post. I have searched to see if this post belongs in an
existing thread - but didn’t see one) If it does or indeed if the topic has already been covered in detail
then please move as you see fit)