Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who are the world’s most generous donors?

The World Giving Index report for 2011 has just been published.  This is the second time this analysis has been published and it includes 153 countries.  The United States is the most charitable nation in the world followed in 2011 by Ireland and Australia.  There has been a 2% increase in the global population ‘helping a stranger’ and a 1% increase in the number volunteering to 32.4% of the world’s population.

The following is a list of the top-12 countries in the World Giving Index in 2011:


Nation World Giving Rank 2011 IMF Ranking of GDP per capita
United States of America 1   7
Ireland 2 12
Australia 3 10
New Zealand 4 33
United Kingdom 5 21
The Netherlands 6   9
Canada 7 14
Sri Lanka 8 111
Thailand 9 86
Laos Peoples Dem Rep 10 140
Hong Kong 11 11
Morocco 12 117

The following table compares the world’s top ranking nation ranked by GDP per capita and ranking in the World Giving Index this year:


  GDP per Capita in 2010 – US$ World Giving Index 2011 Ranking
1.  Qatar 88,222 19
2.  Luxembourg 81,466 21
3.  Singapore 56.694 91
4.  Norway 51,959 32
5.  Brunei 48,333 73
6. United Arab Emirates 47,439 47
7.  United States 46,860   1
-.  Hong Kong 45,944 11
9.  Switzerland 41,950 21
10. Australia 39,764   3
11. Austria 39,761 29
12. Ireland 39,492   2

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paying Irish ministerial advisers

Much attention has focused on the Irish Government’s decision to beach its own public sector cap, in the case of ministerial advisers, no less than fourteen times.

There is a plethora of advisers, programme managers, drivers and aides recruited to discretionary roles and paid from central funds, many of whom were previously employed by the political parties to undertake similar duties.

The highest paid advisers to the current Government are apparently being paid €168,000, which converts to $225,000.

While these rates are €20,000 per annum less than those paid by the Cowen Government it is interesting to make an international comparison.

Take US Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, for example. Kerry is paid $174,000 per annum and his team of advisers were paid a total of $1,439,193 between 4 January and 30 September 2011.But his team comprises 60 individuals including a Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, Boston Office Manager and a plethora of interns, advisers and factotums. The highest paid earned no more than $68,000 (€50,750) in this 9-month period.

Senator Ted Kennedy died on 25 August 2009. He has a personal staff of 39 who earned a total of $1,214,201 (€905,000) and the highest earner was his Chief of Staff who earned $68,254 in nine months.

These US salaries are pathetically low and the work is very demanding, especially when Congress is sitting.  US politicians have considerable leeway in deciding what to pay their staff.  But despite mediocre pay competition for these positions is very intense, especially so in the case of eminent politicians from states as dynamic and important as Massachusetts.  The pay rates bear no relationship to what candidates, many who are high achieving graduates of prestigious universities, could earn in the private sector.  But the prestige of Washington and their value after a stint in politics make the financial sacrifices tolerable and the connections made never prove to be a burden.

Last year taxpayers provided Fine Gael and the Labour Party with a total of €4,409,198 in parliamentary leaders’ allowances. Both government parties, Sinn Féin and Independents will qualify for an even larger parliamentary leader’s allowance this year having won a significant number of additional seats in the recent general election.

Why are the salaries of all political advisers to ministers, aides, drivers and personally appointed programme managers, or at least the excess over and above the rate capped by the Government, not paid out of the leaders’ parliamentary allowance, especially when in government the allowance pot is bigger?

This would give concrete expression to the concept of shared sacrifice and better value for the taxpayers’ euro, but without deterring the recruitment of the ‘best people’. It might even be possible to disregard the public sector pay cap if the salaries are paid from resources to which the political parties are statutorily entitled - which, incidentally, Fianna Fáil only reduced by 1.4% last year when in government.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Should term limits be imposed on Catholic bishops?

christ the redeemer

The possibility of further Irish State inquiries has been mentioned by commentators this past week following the publication of the most recent reviews of child safeguarding procedures in six Roman Catholic dioceses over a 34 year period.

Further State inquiries will achieve little if they were not to be accompanied by a contemporaneous systemic root and branch reform of the Church in Ireland by The Holy See. While the six reviews did cite one bishop, Dr Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore, Cavan as a role model exemplar and two others bishops for being disciplined and constructive in their safeguarding obligations, the reviews also reveal a horrifying catalogue of dereliction, incompetence and incapacity - euphemistically described as ‘errors of judgement’, which have weakened the moral authority of the entire Church and impair the prospects of credible transformation and transparency.

A vital component of reform relates to bishops’ tenure. There have been no more than five individuals holding the position of bishop in each of these six dioceses that have been reviewed in the last century. Some Irish bishops have been in office for over thirty years.

Longevity of tenure and the fact that there are no structures of checks and balances, other than accountability to self, lead to an impossible and intractable position when a bishop’s moral authority wanes, an outcome that is further aggravated by the absence of new people entering the priesthood and the ageing of the current cohort.

Therefore term limits of five to seven years ought to be considered and the foundation of tenure and advancement needs to rest on demonstrable leadership credentials and moral authority rather than rigidly conservative theological pedigree.