By Pádraig Hoare
Balanced development cannot be achieved and trying to achieve it would be counter-productive for national prosperity, an expert on regional economics has said.
Economics lecturer at University College Cork (UCC), Frank Crowley said rather than infrastructural plans attempting to redress regional imbalance, it would be more prudent to enhance Dublin and the regions simultaneously.
He was speaking as an engineering body called for investment into a motorway linking Galway and Cork, and Ringaskiddy as a port in Cork to counterbalance Dublin Port’s dominance.
The Government will unveil the €115bn national planning plan on Friday, with 10 years of capital investment projects to be financed.
A report by the Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE) said enlarging south coast ports, particularly Ringaskiddy, would improve supply, security and direct access to Europe.
“This would require new investment including completion of the Atlantic cities motorway route linking Galway, Limerick, Cork and Ringaskiddy,” it said, adding that it could cost up to €1.8bn depending on the motorway routes chosen.
The body said the Ringaskiddy and motorway link would contribute to balance regional development “by relocating a significant portion of the employment in supply chain management, warehousing and distribution” currently in the greater Dublin area.
However, Mr Crowley said: “Yes, Dublin needs to overcome its congestion and housing shortage problems and with the right policies that can be done. But Dublin is not big when you compare it to Tokyo, New York or London. Dublin is going to get bigger and that is not a bad thing. It has place advantages that large cities benefit from, that other areas of the country just simply cannot compete with.”
He said “some imbalance is natural” and should not be viewed as a completely negative phenomenon.
“The Government’s responsibility in this respect is to ensure that they can unlock the economic potential in lagging regions and maximise their growth by providing well-connected infrastructure between provincial cities,” he said.