Ministers' areas get more investment


CAPITAL SPENDING:CONSTITUENCIES WHERE the sitting TDs include Government Ministers receive higher infrastructure spending per head of population than those without, according to research findings presented to the conference.

A study of the allocation of the government’s capital spending budget between 2001 and 2007 by former Irish Timeseconomics editor Jane Suiter found that constituencies represented by the minister for finance over the period were more likely to receive higher allocations for the building of sports clubs.

For primary school grants, schools in constituencies held by the ministers for education and finance received more over the period, but there was a negative correlation between the size of the grants and the number of children aged between five and 12 in each constituency.

“Ministers and geography matter. There appears to be a policy to please the minister,” said Suiter, who is completing a PhD on the subject in Trinity College.

Civil servants were hampered by the lack of a national database on school infrastructure, while more detailed demographic information should be used when allocating funds, she said.

Also speaking at the conference, UCC economist Declan Jordan criticised the Government’s science, technology and innovation strategy, saying it was awash with “fuzzy concepts” and had little economic basis. “There is no strong correlation in any of the evidence that higher spending on RD leads to higher economic growth,” he said.

Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe said the Government would continue to concentrate on stimulating long-term activity and economic productivity under the “smart economy” umbrella. This was “not just about white coats and PhDs”, he said.

The Minister also told the Kenmare conference that social welfare spending must be reduced and public sector pay re-examined. The next few months would “test our mettle as a nation”, but “the experience of the 1980s shows us that delay makes the problem worse”, he said. As 38 per cent of current spending by the Government was on social welfare payments, “it must be reduced”.

Mr O’Keeffe asked the economists present “to help people understand why a difficult budget is necessary”. He added: “It’s very early in the stages of the debate on the estimates, but I can certainly say that we will be resolute on cutting spending.”

UCD economist Colm McCarthy said the perception among the public was that Government spending was already falling, however, spending was up 7.1 per cent over the past year.