The number crunchers won’t vanish entirely

By Business Editor David Murphy

Gerry Adams’s infamous expression about the IRA that “they haven’t gone away you know” is a fitting description for the role of the Troika after Ireland leaves the bailout.

The spectacle of suited economists clutching laptop cases scuttling into the Department of Finance to pore over the books will be less frequent than before.

But the nameless number crunchers won’t vanish entirely. Instead of four “review missions” every year there will be two. That will continue until Ireland has repaid 75% of its Troika borrowings.

Many people take the view that the EU, ECB and IMF poorly designed the loan programme for Ireland. Indeed, the appalling bailout of bank bondholders is a stain on their track record.

However, that does not mean everything they say should be ignored.

The European Commission makes some recommendations in its latest draft report which could help ordinary people.

The document briefly acknowledges that Ireland “has come a long way”. But it lists areas where the Government has missed targets and long-fingered commitments

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton unveiled a host of reforms to reduce unemployment last year under her Pathways to Work plan.

But the Commission says targets will not be achieved to establish so called one-stop-shop facilities for people looking for work. It says there is only one case officer for every 1,000 unemployed people and new case officers will lack training.

It says 30% of spending on job support programmes goes to Community Employment schemes which don’t get people back to work.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has lauded the progress made under his Action Plan for Jobs. But the Commission says its impact is unknown.

In a scathing assessment it says schemes to get people back to work, including those aimed at re-skilling and up-skilling the unemployed, “have not been very successful in returning people to regular employment.”

Ireland knows from bitter experience of the 1980s that fixing long-term unemployment is a prolonged and difficult task.

There is a benefit from an outside organisation coercing the Irish authorities to put its efforts into solutions which are effective.

The ministers have been handed a system which isn’t equipped to fix the unemployment crisis.

While Ireland will leave the bailout at the end of the year high unemployment will remain. Politicians and public servants should listen closely to the criticisms of the Troika because much of it is in the public interest.