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Pre Budget Submissions - What's the point?

Jul 22, 2014

Published in 1961, Robert Dahl’s ‘Who Governs’ puts forward a particular view of decision making in democratic societies. He suggests that democracies are characterised by a number of competing interest groups, all of whom attempt to influence Government. The role of Government in this process is to act as an ‘honest broker’ and reach a decision that best serves the interests of society as a whole.

While this view has been widely challenged, the process whereby the Government decides its budget for the year ahead seems to lend it some support.

Every year Chambers Ireland, along with many other organisations, presents a pre-budget submission. This is an opportunity to make recommendations that reflect the interests of our members and the businesses they represent, while at the same time seeking to ensure they have some basis in reality and reasonable expectation of success. Other business representative organisations will make submissions as will Trade Unions, charities (those representing certain sections of society and those focusing on a single issue), the Farming Community, think tanks and others. Various Departments take the lead in trying to consider all these submissions and the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in particular reach decisions based on the interests of Irish society, together with big judgement calls on matters such as affordability and estimates of growth and inflation. All against the backdrop of the exposure of our highly open economy to global events together with a very independent ECB determining monetary policy based on risk factors in other people’s economies!

Clearly, we do all that we can to ensure that our suggestions are heard and taken on board by Government. We do this directly through meetings with Ministers, Officials and Oireachtas committees. We also do it indirectly by attempting to make the public aware of our members’ concerns. This is primarily achieved through a structured media campaign.

It’s almost impossible to judge the success of a pre-budget campaign but every year we are gratified when our recommendations receive backing from Government and are legislated for. For example, in budget 2014 the announcement of tax breaks for home repairs, maintenance and improvements was a direct recognition of an idea put forward in our submission. The resulting initiative has given a boost to the entire construction industry, resulting in many jobs created and many others protected, and hopefully more contented consumers with an enhanced home!

This year in our submission we recognise that for some there is evidence of an economic recovery; however, we maintain that what the country needs is a broad based economic recovery, one which results in benefits for every sector and region. Finally, in the whole debate about the absolute size of the adjustment required this year (ranging from €200 million to €2 billion) let’s not forget to marvel at the extraordinary collective effort to get from a necessary adjustment of €18 billion to what now is a surely manageable amount.

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