Watching the ongoing battles over Croke Park and public sector reform, one can’t help wonder how much easier it would be if we could just pay public sector workers one off compensation for the various practices and allowances we need to change. The problem with that, of course, is that we don’t have the money.
We did have it in the past, and actually gave it to those same public sector workers through the shockingly misnamed “benchmarking” process, but our political leaders didn’t have the guts to look to the long-term when doling out our taxes.
So we ended up with a costly public sector without the benefits of those high costs that more visionary leaders would have insisted upon.
Having said that, it’s not just Irish leaders who always fail to think long-term. It’s the Western disease, leaders who are afraid to tell today’s voters that they must sacrifice for tomorrow’s benefit. Whether it is public sector or pension or energy or environmental needs, short-term, the needs of the next election, always triumph over future need.
How do we address this? One possible way might be to force politicians to choose between political expediency now, and their own personal economic benefit after they have left office.
Supposing we devised a formula which took account of, for example, the unemployment rate, inflation, and the budget deficit, and used it to decide what share of their pension they get every year they claim it.
It would mean that Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern would be very much aware of their short-term decision making today.
In fact, they’d be very reliant on their successors doing a good job to ensure their pension performs well. Perhaps that would have made them pay more attention to the needs of good government and long-term planning whilst in office?