Ireland is on the brink of receiving funds for a major stimulus package from the bank funded by the European Union following a meeting with Government ministers.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin met senior officials of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to secure money for infrastructure projects and job creation.
The two ministers said things were “coming together” following the talks in Brussels, which could see an as yet unconfirmed sum of money earmarked specifically for growth in Ireland.
“I think it is well known that one of the very strong policy additions in a number of European countries is that the European Investment Bank would have additional capital provided to it,” said Mr Noonan.
“You know I think it is generally felt that that will happen even though it hasn’t been fully nailed down yet.”
The Finance Minister said they would tap other sources for funding and as such, had additional projects in mind for potential investment.
Areas that could benefit from the EIB funding boost include the Government’s micro-finance fund, which aims to support Irish bank lending to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Public Expenditure Minister Howlin said health and primary car centres, and schools could also avail of the stimulus funds.
“I think what we are looking at is issues that are required to feed into economic growth, that would be shovel ready, that would have an immediate impact in terms of employment,” said Mr Howlin.
“Some of the very major projects that we have put back I think will have a longer term perspective. But the details of that we will very shortly be in a position to announce.”
The ministers were unable to confirm how much money they were asking of the EIB.
Mr Noonan said provided it is off balance sheet, they will take anything they can get.
This comes after Taoiseach Enda Kenny dismissed claims from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams that the Government was not doing enough to support employment and growth.
The Taoiseach came under fire when Mr Adams pointed out that 76,000 people emigrated from Ireland last year alone – an average nine citizens an hour under Mr Kenny’s watch.
But the Taoiseach insisted growth was top of the agenda, which is why Ministers Noonan and Howlin were in talks with the EIB.
“There that clearly needs some greater flexibility shown to them that the Government here could avail of for new ways of funding infrastructure and employment creation opportunities,” said Mr Kenny.
The European Investment Bank is the European Union’s bank, which is funded by borrowing on the capital markets as opposed to drawing on the EU budget.
It bases its lending decisions on a project’s merits and what prove to be the best opportunities on the financial markets. The 27 member states of the EU make up its shareholders.