The Irish Government is ready to reform the budgetary process to ensure the more regular involvement of parliament.
The Government has approved proposals put forward by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe. The plans were first set out in the Programme for Partnership Government, the document drawn up following months of negotiations between the new minority Fine Gael administration and the opposition parties.
The main aim is to ensure that the budgetary process is underpinned by substantially enhanced parliamentary input and feedback. As part of the new budgetary cycle, the Government will publish a Spring/Summer Economic Statement (SES) in June, and will hold a National Economic Dialogue event the same month. It will publish a Mid-Year Expenditure report in July for the first time, and will circulate Tax Strategy Papers to the relevant parliamentary committees in late July.
The SES will provide an updated assessment of the macro-economic and fiscal outlook, and an updated forecast on the “fiscal space” in the budget, to inform discussion on budgetary priorities. The objective of the National Economic Dialogue will be to facilitate an open exchange on competing economic and social priorities in advance of the Budget. The Mid-Year Expenditure Report will set out spending trends and spending ceilings, and explain any changes that have occurred since the previous Budget.
Noonan reports: “These new milestones in the budgetary cycle are intended to mark a decisive shift away from what has been characterized by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as a disconnected series of annual set-piece events replacing it with ongoing and active engagement with the Houses of the Oireachtas [parliament] and its committees throughout the course of the budget cycle. The Government’s reforms will provide all members of the Oireachtas with the opportunity to influence and critique budget allocations and priorities, making budgetary debate and discussion in Ireland more realistic, informed, and effective.”