Cowen: NDP projects take priority over others

Projects included in the National Development Plan (NDP) must be prioritised because of the economic slowdown, the Taoiseach said today.

Brian Cowen said the infrastructural blueprint for 2007-2013 was based on annual growth of 4.5% which was ambitious in the current climate.

Mr Cowen told Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny that projects such as a €252m IT package for schools would depend on what funds are available.

He said: “The assumptions which are set out in the NDP are predicated on growth of more than 4.5% per annum.

It is important that we prioritise investment to those areas which will improve competitiveness and ensure we continue to see investment coming to the country to create jobs and maintain and grow wealth for the country in order that we can develop public services.“

Mr Kenny claimed that the NDP is not secure and that its commitments cannot be guaranteed.

The Opposition leader reminded Mr Cowen that he said in his Budget speech in December that the NDP was a top priority for him and that postponing or delaying it would be a major policy error.

Mr Kenny added: “We are now being told by the Taoiseach that this is all predicated on prevailing financial circumstances. This will come as a complete shock and an absolute disappointment to the hundreds of thousands of pupils, teachers and parents throughout the country who will find that their schools are inadequately resourced in terms of ICT.”

However Mr Cowen insisted that the Government’s commitment to education has been unprecedented and will continue.

He added: “This Government will prioritise investments in those areas which will be most productive for the economy and for society and education has been an area where, since this Government took office in 1997, we have consistently expanded and increased investment on an ongoing basis and will continue to do so.”

Mr Cowen said the Cabinet had to take cognisance of the international economic environment.

“We have certain commitments with which we have to contend and in the meantime we will prioritise investments in the productive sectors of the economy, including education, physical infrastructure, social expenditure and other areas,” he told the Dáil.

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