Busi­ness groups seek share of €4.1bn plan

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Ea­mon Quinn

A re­view launched by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe on the best ways to al­lo­cate an ad­di­tional €4.1bn on cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture has led to in­creased de­mands from busi­ness groups for funds for their pet projects.

Busi­ness group Dublin Cham­ber said the cap­i­tal de­served the lion’s share of any new money as the re­gion faces the chal­lenges of Brexit.

Projects such as Metro North and the Dart Un­der­ground would de­liver the big­gest re­turns for the whole coun­try be­cause in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture in the cap­i­tal “re­spects and re­flects where the Ir­ish peo­ple are ac­tu­ally choos­ing to live in their great­est num­bers”, said Dublin Cham­ber chief ex­ec­u­tive Mary Rose Burke.

Cork Cham­ber chief ex­ec­u­tive Conor Healy said he wel­comed the com­mit­ment by the Gov­ern­ment on the need for ad­di­tional re­sources. Spend­ing will be re­quired to be made on projects in the cap­i­tal but ex­pen­di­ture on projects, in­clud­ing the M20 Cork–Lim­er­ick Mo­tor­way and the Dun­ket­tle In­ter­change, would also sus­tain eco­nomic growth across the State, Mr Healy said.

Mr Dono­hoe’s re­view in­cluded an in-depth anal­y­sis of the strains fac­ing ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

The ad­di­tional €4.1bn will be al­lo­cated on the ba­sis of “ev­i­dence” on bot­tle­necks and on risks such as Brexit fac­ing the economy, the re­view said.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Paschal Dono­hoe says a mid-term cap­i­tal spend­ing re­view will iden­tify the best ways to spend an ad­di­tional €4.1bn ear­marked on trans­port, ed­u­ca­tion and hous­ing in the com­ing years.

How­ever, the pub­li­ca­tion has sparked a bat­tle from busi­ness groups to se­cure money for spe­cific projects in their re­gions.

Busi­ness group Dublin Cham­ber said the cap­i­tal de­served the lion’s share of any new money as the most pop­u­lous re­gion faces the chal­lenges of Brexit.

Projects such as Metro North and the Dart Un­der­ground would de­liver the big­gest re­turns for the whole coun­try be­cause in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture in the cap­i­tal “re­spects and re­flects where the Ir­ish peo­ple are ac­tu­ally choos­ing to live in their great­est num­bers”, said Dublin Cham­ber chief ex­ec­u­tive Mary Rose Burke.

Cork Cham­ber chief ex­ec­u­tive Conor Healy said he wel­comed the com­mit­ment on ad­di­tional cap­i­tal spend­ing. Spend­ing will be re­quired in the cap­i­tal but in­vest­ments in projects such as the M20 Cork–Lim­er­ick Mo­tor­way and Dun­ket­tle In­ter­change would also sus­tain eco­nomic growth across the State, Mr Healy said.

Mr Dono­hoe’s re­view in­cluded an in-depth anal­y­sis of the strains fac­ing ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

In­clud­ing over 50 sub­mis­sions from lo­cal author­i­ties, politi­cians and busi­ness groups, the re­view said the ad­di­tional €4.1bn will be al­lo­cated on the ba­sis of ev­i­dence of bot­tle­necks and on risks such as Brexit fac­ing the economy. The money will be al­lo­cated while recog­nis­ing “the po­ten­tial for over­heat­ing as the economy ap­proaches full ca­pac­ity”, it said.

A 113-page anal­y­sis, called Strate­gic Pub­lic In­fra­struc­ture, said pop­u­la­tion growth and the strains on pri­mary care health ser­vices, de­mands on Third-Level ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing short­ages, and Ir­ish Wa­ter in­vest­ment “high­light the need for a con­certed fo­cus on get­ting project se­lec­tion right”.

On roads, it said in­creased de­mand meant parts of the net­work were “ei­ther un­sta­ble or at break­down” and “spe­cific anal­y­sis of the M50 and the Cork Ring Road, two of the pri­mary routes in those cities, shows that the level of ser­vice is a par­tic­u­lar is­sue in these ar­eas”.

Its re­search showed the pop­u­la­tion den­sity is great­est in the Dublin and its sub­urbs, fol­lowed by Lim­er­ick and its sub­urbs, Gal­way and its sub­urbs, Cork and its sub­urbs, and Water­ford and its sub­urbs.

The re­ports cited EU find­ings that low rates of use of pub­lic trans­port in Dublin com­pared with many Euro­pean cities was be­cause of the low pop­u­la­tion den­sity of the cap­i­tal.

It re­ports the na­tional road net­work of ma­jor roads (5% of all roads) has been val­ued at €30bn, “high­light­ing both the over­all value of the net­work as an as­set and the re­quire­ment to main­tain as­set value”.

Mean­while, the Bri­tish Ir­ish Cham­ber of Com­merce warned higher ed­u­ca­tion needs more re­sources if the Gov­ern­ment is to se­cure “lim­ited ben­e­fits of Brexit”.

The re­view was crit­i­cised by Fianna Fáil ex­pen­di­ture spokesper­son Dara Cal­leary.

“The ini­tial plan was pub­lished back in 2015 as a pre-elec­tion stunt but it lacked any am­bi­tion and failed to recog­nise the scale of the cap­i­tal deficit in Ire­land.

“To­day’s re­view has failed to bring any new ideas to the ta­ble,” he said.

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