The following three videos from Marian Harkin (MEP), Fergus Finlay (Barnardos Ireland, CEO) and John Lonergan (former Governor Mountjoy Prison) are messages of warning about the policy of reductionism of the public service. None of the three speakers has a personal vested interest in the public services, above or beyond any other Irish citizen.
There is a group think among some of the political parties that a key pillar of our economic recovery is the reduction of the public services. Marian Harkin warns of cutting what is ‘good and valuable’ as part of this ‘mindless austerity’. Fergus Finlay highlights that we probably won’t miss them until they are gone and then it will be too late.
The meaningless divide, being promoted by some sections of the media and political interests, between the private sector and public sector (Marian Harkin) and the front line/back office workers (John Lonergan) is articulated.
Cost or Investment?
Depicting public sector spending as a cost rather than an investment (Marian Harkin and Fergus Finlay) is seen as short termism that will result in significant social and economic costs in the future (John Lonergan). The desirability of having committed and motivated professionals in the public service is argued (Fergus Finlay and John Lonergan) as is the need for a strategic review of all public services (all three speakers) – a review based on quality of service as well as the ethics of delivery and not simply cost.
Devaluing Public Services
Attempts by some public figures to undermine and devalue public sector employees risks demotivating and dis-incentivising these workers. True political leaders would have enough maturity to appreciate that all workers – irrespective of sector – want to work in an organisation that is well run and where genuine effort and dedication is acknowledged and celebrated. The imposition of populist but unproductive working conditions on public sector employees is politically pragmatic but lacks basic common sense.
The private sector has a very important role to play in our economic recovery. However ceding aspects of our public services to this sector is an ill-conceived strategy. In a profit versus equitable human rights situation, profit will always be the winner in a commercial/private organisation. Public expenditure is an important aspect of social protection – none of us know the day nor the hour when we will be in need of the succor of the state – don’t let policy makers strip you of that reasonable expectation with their political rhetoric.
Irish Public Service is Relatively Small and Cheap
Perhaps a quotation from an objective observer – none less than the OECD (2008)- will help to convince that all is not as some political spokespeople would have you believe.
“In comparison with other OECD countries, Ireland has been able to deliver public services with a public sector that is relatively small given the size of its economy and labour force. Even when factoring in infrastructure investment, Ireland has the third smallest total public expenditure as a percentage of GDP, and this figure has actually decreased over the last 10 years.”
KPSWA would like to thank the three participants for committing their views which run contrary to populist opinion. Their track records of honesty and integrity is what adds value to their contributions.