Action Plan for Jobs takes Troika memo template

Analysis: Hundreds of worthy and trivial targets are set out, but plan may achieve ultimate aim

Harry McGee: ‘The latest quarterly report published today follows the patter of mixing substantial innovation with Mickey Mouse targets that amount to no more than box-ticking exercises.’ Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Harry McGee: ‘The latest quarterly report published today follows the patter of mixing substantial innovation with Mickey Mouse targets that amount to no more than box-ticking exercises.’ Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 18:27

A little bit like the painted-over Victorian postboxes reminding Free Staters of their colonial past, there are still a few remnants out there of the Troika years in Ireland.

While the Government as a whole has dropped the Memorandum of Understanding template favoured by the Troika with its quarterly reports, it did provide a model for how Government’s ambitious Action Plan for Jobs would be evaluated.

The aim of the plan is to create 100,000 new jobs in the Irish economy by 2016 to bring the total number of people employed to over 2 million.

And to do so, its sets out hundreds of targets each year - many of them tiny and insignificant, a few of a very major nature - with quarterly targets for each. It spans across all Departments of Government and is supervised by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and by the Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton. And every quarter, they produce a report giving an update on how many of the targets have been achieved.

The latest quarterly report published today follows the patter of mixing substantial innovation with Mickey Mouse targets that amount to no more than box-ticking exercises. And unlike the Troika, the evaluators of the targets aren’t exactly independent in their roles - they have, as the saying goes, “skin in the game”.

That said, as a senior official in the Department said, the very existence of the plan, and the Taoiseach’s supervision, ensures that all Government agencies are kept on their toes in terms of ensuring that targets are met, even if they do seem relatively trivial.

In addition, there have been some major initiatives too. The Government is now getting to a stage where some of those which needed legislation are now getting to the enactment stage - they include the merge of the competition and consumer agencies; the establishment of the local enterprise offices in each council; workplace relations legislation, the new Companies Act, as well as the almost completed (but long-delayed) Legal services Bill.

In the second quarter this year 85 per cent of the targets were met. The most eye-catching was the establishment of a national health innovation hub, which will bring bright and “disruptive” new ideas on health to the pharmaceutical and technology sectors. There are also new initiatives for young entrepreneurs, to stimulate more online trading and commerce, the launch of the national postcode system, as well as a new strategic banking corporation with €500m in funding for job-creating projects.

Construction too is a major emphasis, with a series of measures to restore employment in this depressed sector and to meet quickly growing demand for housing in Dublin.

Along the way some of the initiatives have not worked out as well as envisaged. They include microfinance and the loan guarantee fund for small businesses. Bruton said some of those schemes will be tweaked and worked on to help improve uptake.

It’s very hard to measure how many jobs have been created. Bruton claims it is 65,000 so far. If that is so, the 100,000 figure will easily be reached by 2016.

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