Sunday, 14 March 2010

A day at the Portuguese Parliament

A few thoughts after having spent last Friday at the Portuguese Parliament with some students, to watch the final debate on this year's budget. The most striking thing of the discussion is the accounting perspective that dominates the debate. The proposals are discussed in terms of their budgetary impact but little or no reference is made to a cost-benefit type of assessment, apart from some vague qualitative statements about, e.g., the role of not-for-profit organizations in the provision of local public services. Not a single figure about the effectiveness or efficiency of the service delivery. This same perspective dominates to a large extent the debate surrounding the Stability and Growth Programme. While it is obvious that the S&GP should begin by a careful quantification of the impact of each measure in terms of revenue and expenditure, this should be a first step into assessing the impact of these measures in the economy and whether they are able to put the country in a sustainable growth path in the medium to long term. Solving the deficit issue is a means and not an end in itself, and it doesn't seem like decision makers have that clearly in mind. A new culture of political decision making is needed in Portugal, one where the impact assessment of each decision becomes the rule rather than the exception.

1 comment:

  1. Not very surprising, in a country where cost-benefit analysis are usually made AFTER political decisions have been taken.