Government plan 'could create 270,000 jobs'

About 270,000 jobs could be created by 2016 under Government plans to boost spending on enterprise, education, the environment and public transport, it was claimed today.

More than 39bn is being invested in the revised capital works programme – down from the €76.2bn set aside in the National Development Plan to 2013.

Money has been provided for major transport projects like Metro North and the Dart Underground, as well as 70,000 extra primary and 15,000 secondary school places.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said there would be increases in education and enterprise sectors but less cash will be put into roads and housing.

“In the new situation that we find ourselves, emerging out of recession ... what we’re now seeking to achieve is where do we get the maximum bang for our buck?” Mr Cowen said.

He said that under the programme 640 IDA projects would be funded by government, creating 66,000 jobs. It is estimated that 44,000 jobs would also be rolled out as a consequence of the funding.

The Taoiseach also said Enterprise Ireland estimated 40,000 jobs could emerge out of support given to the small and medium enterprise sector.

A breakdown of the Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-16 include:

€12bn set aside for transport – €5.7bn for public transport including Metro North and Dart Underground.

€8bn for environment, heritage and local government including €3.4bn to upgrade and expand water infrastructure and €4.4bn for social housing.

€4bn given to education, including €3.1bn to upgrade and expand schools and €650m for third level.

€3.8bn given to trade and enterprise, with more than €1.2bn invested through IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

€2.8bn for health, including €1.6bn to fund acute hospital facilities.

€1bn for the Office of Public Works, including €480m for flood relief schemes.

€700m for the Department of Justice, including €250m for additional detention centres.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said it was important to give stability for investors.

“We have taken a hard-headed, realistic look at what should now be our investment priorities,” he said.

But Fine Gael said the programme was the wrong way to get the economy back on track.

Fine Gael Transport Spokesman Simon Coveney said: “Since the start of this recession, Fine Gael has proposed major investment in strategic infrastructure to create jobs and position the economy for future growth.

“But why is the Government shifting the emphasis away from job-intensive projects like roads, and into areas where the numbers employed will be far lower?”

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) urged the Government not to renege on its plan to deliver social housing to 56,000 people on the waiting list, claiming the original plan committed €17bn over seven years.

“The revised NDP effectively rolls back on the commitment made to the poorest households to provide them with a home,” the body said.

However, Environment Minister John Gormley said there was a surplus in the number of houses in the country and the plan was now to move away from the build-and-buy policy to leasing existing properties.

“We are confident that through the restructuring process, through the leasing, some 63,000 households will be accommodated by 2016,” he said.

Business body Ibec said the certainty that now exists will deliver a much-needed stimulus to the economy.

Brendan Butler, director, said: “This investment is an important vote of confidence in the Irish economy.

“The scale of the programme remains ambitious by international standards and provides the opportunity to enhance the growth potential of the economy.”

The Construction Industry Federation welcomed the plan but said the real test lies in the delivery of the projects.

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