The Government is making good progress on achieving all of our targets and priorities, as set out in the Government programme. We are bringing public expenditure back to a sustainable level and driving forward the public service reform agenda to ensure efficiencies and reformed work practices play a full part in contributing to the overall budgetary consolidation effort.
When determining fiscal policy, the Government has to take account of a wide range of often competing considerations and policy priorities. The Government decides on the balance between these priorities in setting the broad budgetary parameters - the overall budgetary balance, taxation priorities and the aggregate levels for expenditure. The comprehensive review of expenditure was the culmination of an intensive exercise carried out by all Departments in 2011 to identify means of reducing expenditure in line with commitments under the joint EU-IMF programme of financial support, while minimising the impact on service delivery. All proposals, including those from members of the public and third party submissions, were fully appraised for the exercise and the outcomes were published in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-2014.
The 2013 ministerial expenditure ceilings were introduced on an administrative basis and I intend to migrate it to a statutory basis. The precise composition of the 2013 budgetary consolidation is a matter for Government, the details of which will be announced in the House on 5 December. In keeping with an EU-IMF programme commitment, the administrative ceilings are to be put on a statutory footing, which will be done by legislation brought to the House this session, I hope.
The substantial fiscal consolidation implemented in 2011 was part of the reason for the reduction in the underlying general Government deficit, from 10.7% of GDP in 2010 to 9.1% of GDP last year, well within the EU-IMF programme target of 10.6% of GDP. This result was attained despite weaker domestic demand, reflecting the Government’s strong revenue administration and firm control of expenditure. All end-quarter Exchequer primary balance and central Government net debt targets set out in the programme have been met.
The central expenditure evaluation unit, CEEU, within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform promotes best practice in the evaluation of programme expenditure across all Departments and public sector agencies. As part of the comprehensive review of expenditure, the CEEU also produced a series of cross-cutting evaluation papers covering a range of topics that were published on the Department's website in 2011. The role of evaluation was further enhanced by the introduction earlier this year of the Irish Government economic and evaluation service. The work of the service will support Departments in evaluating policy and expenditure options, value for money exercises, cost benefit and regulatory impact analyses, and regulatory and competition issues. These are many of the points recommended to us by Deputy Donnelly. We have recruited a cohort of people who are being trained in my Department. They will be farmed out, if that is not a vulgar term, to work in Departments.