This publication could not be better timed, coming as it does in the middle of attempts to form the next government by the three largest parties. The Survey is not alone essential reading for our political parties; it should also be studied by citizens who have an interest in the long-term welfare of the Irish state.
While all political manifestos have made promises on largescale spending increases, tax cuts, or both, the OECD says that Ireland remains a country with significant social, structural and budgetary challenges, and a very large national debt. It notes that spending on Health, Social Protection, Education and Justice are all substantially overrunning their budgets. However, and damningly, our health outcomes are poor and our health service is inefficient; our labour activation, especially among women and long-term unemployed is below average; our literacy, numeracy and problem solving are below OECD averages in almost every category; and our criminal law enforcement, especially in white-collar crime and corruption, needs to improve markedly.
The fact that these observations are being made about performance in those same departments that are overspending the most suggests that some critical conversations about efficiency and effectiveness are required between our new ministers for Health, Welfare, Education and Justice with their respective departments.
Our new Taoiseach, whoever he or she may be, cannot afford to tolerate anyone at the cabinet table who is uncomfortable with seeking value for money for the taxpayer. The last few years have clearly shown that throwing money at problems does not make them go away. It makes them harder to solve.
The OECD Economic Survey in Ireland is available here.