Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Neither Fair or Equitable - The Impact of Government Cuts on Traveller Services

Pavee Point published a report yesterday, on the impact of cuts over the last five years on Traveller projects and services. The report, authored by Brian Harvey, can be downloaded here.

Pavee Point asked us to provide a brief response to the report at the launch yesterday, here is the text of that response:

One of TASC’s main roles is to analysis Government budgets and to make alternative policy proposals. We also focus on transparency and democracy. This report, published today by Pavee Point, has relevance for all those issues.

After five years of austerity policies, we should not be easily shocked. However, the details and figures contained in this report are extremely stark and tell a story that exceeds in its bleakness, many of the reports we have been hearing since the crisis began.

Where government spending has been cut by 4.3 per cent, the voluntary and community sector is seeing a yearly cut of 8-10 per cent.  Cuts of this level have a devastating effect on the communities these programmes and organisations serve.

However, cuts in the magnitude of 86 per cent in Traveller education and 85 per cent in Traveller accommodation, 63 per cent in Traveller organisations over the same period far outstrip those made in other areas and it is difficult to see an explanation for this level of cuts focused on a single community other than that of marginalisation and exclusion.

In drawing together these figures and presenting a picture of cuts over five years, this report has made it possible to view a more comprehensive and honest picture of how the Traveller Community has been disproportionally affected by Government policy.

However, as the report itself outlines, the compilation and analysis of these figures was a difficult task. The budgetary process and the lack of sufficient information and data released by Government hampers contemporary research and analysis into Government spending and outcomes.

Even by Ireland’s standards, Budget 2013 was backwards step in terms of budget transparency, with some departments, such as Justice and Equality, Environment, Community and Local Government and Education and Skills providing a weaker level of detail, or spending under subheadings than the previous year.

We had to wait months until the revised estimates gave greater information, by which time, most of the budget measures have been passed and the media debate had moved on. This makes it very difficult for civil society, communities and citizens to engage and mobilise on decisions which affect them.

As the report further demonstrates, much of the support available to the Traveller community comes by way of supports available to disadvantaged communities and is not Traveller specific. This means that again, it is difficult to assess the level of support accessed by the Traveller community and therefore the level of cuts suffered by it.

In 2013 there should be no excuse for the poor level of statistics in relation to Traveller participation and outcomes in the education sector and the monitoring of the consequences of the withdrawal of services as outlined in the report.

The current Programme for Government agreed by Fine Gael and Labour contains a strong commitment to openness and transparency. Not least, on page twenty three, the pledge that “We will open up the Budget process to the full glare of public scrutiny in a way that restores confidence and stability by exposing and cutting failing programmes and pork barrel politics.”

However, confidence and stability also comes from debating and understanding the rationale, and possible consequences of budgetary decisions.

A proper system of equality budgeting would assist in this task.

One of the consequences of the closed nature of budgetary decision-making over the past few years is that budgets are passed in a vacuum, where the multiplicity of impacts on certain groups in society is not adequately considered or debated.
If you decide to target secondary benefits for example, there is a good chance that those who are most dependent on social transfers will suffer the most.

This report demonstrates the cumulative effects of decisions made across different departments on one such group. Budgets should be examined for the cumulative effects on specific groups, including Travellers, across departments and on a multi-annual basis, rather than lurching from year to year.

One of the most disappointing aspects of Government policy during the crisis is that it threatens to roll back progress made in the preceding years. Progress, as stated in the report, which was hard fought and hard won.

The Government’s main task during this crisis, as articulated by the Government (previous and current) itself, the media and our European partners is to reduce the deficit and return to growth.

However, disinvestment in Traveller services and facilities, in particular, education and accommodation, is a false economy. A return to growth demands investment, in particular in education and in capital projects.

It is not clear what is to be gained in the long-run by further marginalising a community or disinvesting in its future.

Over the past number of years, many organisations and groups (e.g. TASC, SJI etc.), have provided alternative policies for closing the deficit, ones that would not increase inequality.

There is no need for any group in our society to bear the disproportional impacts of cuts that the Traveller community has, these are political choices, not economic ones.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Debt, Growth and Coding Errors

Tom McDonnell: Reinhart and Rogoff's finding that the growth rate starts to decline once the public debt to GDP ratio exceeds 90% has become embraced as a stylised fact by the commentariat and in particular by the austerians. However, a recent paper by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin has critiqued this finding. As Slate reports here, Herndon et al. find that the Reinhart and Rogoff result is attributable to a coding error, and they also raise other methodological objections. Herndon et al. find that overall the evidence contradicts Reinhart and Rogoff's claim that public debt loads greater than 90% of GDP consistently reduce GDP growth.

It will be interesting to see how Reinhart and Rogoff respond to the Herndon critique.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Optimal taxation of top incomes

Tom McDonnell: You can find an interesting paper on optimal top marginal tax rates here.… The authors find that the optimal top marginal tax rate converges to about 2/3. You can read a synopsis of the findings here.

Bringing Balance to Imbalance

Tom McDonnell: The results of the EU Commission's review of macroeconomic imbalances can be seen here. Andrew Watt attacks the partiality and findings of the report here.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Conference on "Understanding the Changing Worlds of Capitalism", May 1st

Understanding the Changing Worlds of Capitalism:
New Perspectives on the Political Economy of Work, Production and Employment Regimes

A Research Conference
NIRSA/ Sociology
May 1st 2013, Renehan Hall, NUI Maynooth

Sponsored by the European Research Council and the Irish Research Council

The various forms of capitalism are in crisis, as are many of the theories that have dominated understandings of capitalism in recent decades.  This conference draws together leading international scholars to examine changing European capitalisms, with a particular focus on how the organisation of work, employment and production regimes is changing. We explore how theories must shift to account for changing capitalisms.

Speakers include Dorothee Bohle, Rossella Ciccia, Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Eoin Flaherty, Béla Greskovits, Peer Hull Kristensen, Frances McGinnity, Lars Mjoset, Mary Murphy, Seán Ó Riain, Luis Ortiz, Karen Shire, Markus Tünte. 

Full programme and information here.
The conference explores a variety of theories of political economy (e.g. Polanyian, institutionalist, pragmatist); different forms of capitalism in Europe (liberal, Christian democratic, social democratic, post-socialist, Mediterranean); and various institutions shaping work (e.g. welfare regimes, industrial relations, family, transnational work and technological change).

Registration is free but places are limited.
Please register here.
Enquiries to newdeals@nuim.ie
Click here for information on how to get to NUI Maynooth Campus by road or rail

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Workshop on Industrial policy in Comparative Perspective, Thursday April 25th

Whither Industrial Policy? The Future of Public Institutions and Economic Development

3-6 pm, Thursday April 25th 2013
Institute of Bankers, 1 North Wall Quay, Dublin 1
Sponsored by NUI Maynooth (NIRSA/ Sociology) and UCD Geary Institute

Globalisation, regional economic clusters, open systems of innovation, financialisation, legal restrictions on state aid and a range of other factors appeared to have consigned industrial policy and the developmental state to history. However, as economies struggle to restore growth and seek models of sustainable prosperity, there is renewed interest in the role of public institutions in promoting industrial and regional development. Moreover, recent decades have seen significant experiments with new forms of ‘old’ institutions – ranging across the industrial development agencies of Israel and Taiwan, the state investment banks of Germany and Brazil and the diverse network of agencies promoting innovation in the US.

This workshop explores the new forms of industrial and innovation policy that have emerged in recent decades. It examines their distinctive features, limitations and potential and asks what futures there might be for a developmental role for public institutions.

3-4.20 Public Institutions, Innovation and Growth in the Knowledge Economy  
Chair: Seán Ó Riain, Sociology/ NIRSA, NUI Maynooth

Danny Breznitz, College of Business, Georgia Tech
“The Diverse Paths to Rapid-Innovation-Based Growth: The Strategic Role of the State”

Shiri Breznitz, School of Public Policy, Georgia Tech
“The Fountain of Knowledge? University Technology Transfer and Economic Development"

4.20-4.45 coffee

4.45-6 Round-table Discussion
The Role of the State in Development Strategies in a Changing Economic Landscape
Chair: Niamh Hardiman, Geary Institute and SPIRe, UCD

Short contributions from the following will be followed by discussion.
Seán Ó Riain, Sociology/ NIRSA, NUI Maynooth
Philip O'Connell, Geary Institute, UCD
Aphra Kerr, Sociology/ NIRSA, NUI Maynooth
Patrick Paul Walsh, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD

The workshop is funded by the European Research Council and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It is sponsored by the ‘New Deals in the New Economy’ project at NUI Maynooth (NIRSA/ Sociology) and ‘The Political Economy of the European Periphery’ at UCD Geary Institute.

Registration is free but places are limited. To register please email geary@ucd.ie  with the subject line “Industrial Policy” before Monday April 22nd.
Information on Venue and Transport is available here 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

'Social Security for All'

Nat O'Connor: Compass in the UK have produced a short briefing document entitled 'Social Security for All' as a way of (re)making the case for the welfare system/welfare state. Although they are writing in a UK context, a lot of the principles and basic challenges they highlight are very relevant for Ireland.