Our leadership - from the Minister for Finance to the heads of the Central Bank and various quangoes, to the affiliated leading business figures are keen on pointing the finger for Ireland's troubles at the banks. While the banks are certainly responsible for much of the problems we face, there are other troubles, of an equally pressing nature, that besiege our economy courtesy of the direct decisions taken by the Government.
Exchequer problems ex-banks are a good starting point for taking a closer look at our grave condition.
Irish Exchequer is expected (by the DofF) to bring in some €32 billion in Tax Revenues this year. The Government is expected to spend some €19 billion or 59.4% of the total tax take on its Wages and Pensions bill.
Imagine a household that is paying almost 60 percent of wages earned by those of its members working to purchase household services. Alternatively, imagine a household with a single earner where a person working earns, say €50,000pa and has a spouse who is engaged in full time household work. The implicit cost of such household work (labour alone) to this family, using our Government's metrics, would be €30,000 net of tax.
What would any household do in these circumstances? Of course - send the spouse into workforce and hire substitute services (childcare, cleaning, cooking etc)... What does the Irish state do? It signs a multi-annual agreement with the unions that ensures that the taxpayers will see no reprieve on wages and pensions bills they pay for Public Sector.
Now, let's put things into perspective. 2003 Exchequer Tax Revenues were at the same (nominal) level as the expected revenues this year - €32 billion. Exchequer Pay and Pensions bill was €13 billion or 40.6% of the total tax take.
So between 2003 and today, Irish Exchequer has managed to increase its exposure to public sector pay and pensions costs by a massive 46.2%. In the mean time, due to increased private sector competition (despite such competition being retarded by our regulatory regimes) and continuously improving demographics (younger population and a rising share of population with access to superior foreign public services, such as health - aka the immigrants), the overall public sector responsibilities in terms of services provision have actually declined.
Back to household analogy here - we've got a houseworker in the family who is now armed with newer technology, reducing time and effort input into work, as the cost of such houseworker to the family is rising by almost 50%.
Recap the top-line figures: pay and pensions bills of our sovereign are up 46%. Ex-exports, our domestic economy income is down 34.4% (see here). A country where 1.4 million private sector workers are forced to living beyond our means to pay the wages and pensions for some 470,000 public sector employees?
Mad stuff, but then again, Irish Public Sector is more like a WAG in its expectations of pay and performance, than a Cinderella.