Monday, October 18, 2010

Merrion Street today

There has been a constant flow of people in and out of the Department of Finance in Government Buildings on Merrion Street today.  Joan Burton was first in this morning, to be followed by Michael Noonan.  Arthur Morgan is next in line.

Reports suggest that the finance spokespeople for the main opposition parties are getting “confidential data concerning the state of the economy and the expected cost of servicing the national debt”. 

A report on the exit of Joan Burton went

Labour Party finance spokeswoman Joan Burton has described as “very challenging” the information provided at the first Department of Finance briefing for Opposition politicians on the state of the country’s finances.

Ms Burton emerged from the Department in Merrion Street in Dublin shortly after 11am, having gone in at 8.45am.

She said while much of the information had been given on the condition of confidentiality, departmental officials had expressed concern that income tax receipts would be lower than had been expected previously.

“What they told us was very challenging,” Ms Burton said.

We’re not told what she means.  Could "very challenging" be Exchequer tax receipts less than €30 billion?

Also what "confidential data" are they getting?  Why can't the rest of us have it?  Why does it need to be confidential?

The Department of Finance doesn't actually produce any of these figures.  The “state of the economy” can be determined from the National Accounts and other statistical releases (Retail Sales, External Trade etc.) from the CSO.  Debt service costs are provided by the NTMA.  This isn't confidential data and is widely available. 

In fact,  the DoF provide an excellent monthly summary of all this data.  The most recent version from last week is here.  This provides an excellent snapshot of the state of the economy and level of public debt.

I presume they mean confidential projections that have been produced by the DoF.  But why should Noonan and Burton assume that the DoF projections are any more accurate than the projections provided by other analysts? 

It looks like a bit of a publicity stunt on all sides.

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