Under the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) has been assigned responsibility for examining and reporting on the appropriateness of the fiscal stance in Ireland. This is in line with the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.
One of its functions under the Act involves IFAC providing an independent assessment of the official macroeconomic forecasts of the Department of Finance. This is the so-called ‘endorsement function’ which requires that IFAC “endorse, as it considers appropriate, the macroeconomic forecasts prepared by the Department of Finance on which the Budget and Stability Programme will be based ”.
It is in this context that my officials meet with members of the IFAC Secretariat and Council as part of the Stability Programme Update (SPU) and the Budget process each year. However, beyond the Council’s statutory functions, as provided for under the 2012 Fiscal Responsibility Act, IFAC has no legislative role in the production or analysis of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) reports. I can confirm therefore that neither I nor my officials have had any meetings with the IFAC in this regard.
Separately, a representative from my Department attends the meetings of the NCC in an advisory capacity. However, policy responsibility for competitiveness issues lies with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (BEI) and as such, the NCC prepares and submits its reports to the Taoiseach and the Government, through the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
The Department of Finance perspective is that as a small open economy, it is essential that we maintain our competitiveness and ensure that the cost of doing business does not act as an impediment to this. In this regard, Future Jobs Ireland is an integral component of the Government’s over-arching plan for the future of the Irish economy. Given the central role that the NCC plays in informing competitiveness and productivity policy, in Future Jobs 2019 the Government has committed to responding to the NCC’s annual priority recommendations to enhance productivity and competitiveness performance.
As we look to the future, we must be cognisant of the risks to the outlook posed by Brexit, increasing protectionism and changes to the international tax landscape. Given these challenges over the horizon, the government remains committed to ensuring that our economy is as resilient in bad times as it is dynamic in good times.
As Minister for Finance, the best way to ensure that we chart a way forward through these uncertain times ahead, is through continued prudent budgetary policy, careful management of the public finances and by ensuring we focus on competitiveness-oriented policies.