We may not have full control over our economy after Brexit, but there is nothing to stop national investment outside of Dublin, except bureaucracy and Government obfuscation.
We should do so to balance the economy. A thriving southern region could help counteract some of the worst aspects of even the hardest of hard Brexits, something we are more likely than ever to face, given the bullish rhetoric of British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and senior members of his cabinet.
The Central Bank has warned of major job losses across the economy, in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It forecasts 34,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year and 110,000 fewer jobs over the next 10 years. It also warns that a disorderly Brexit would dramatically reduce economic growth and make consumers and businesses spend less. There could be disruption at ports and airports, while Irish exports would be hit by a weak UK economy and a potentially large fall in the value of sterling. The bank says that gauging the impact this could have on the Irish economy is “the most uncertain exercise” it has ever had to carry out.
In a way, Brexit is already upon us. With the fall in sterling, British consumers have less spending power and are becoming more cautious. There are fewer tourists from the UK visiting Ireland and Irish exports to Britain are more expensive than they were even three months ago.
We are limited in the ways we can control the current scenario, let alone a hard Brexit, but some of the effects can be mitigated by investment in indigenous industry, particularly in the southern region. This is a central part of the plan for growth in Cork and the southern region, as outlined in the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan. The plan envisions Cork, Limerick, and Galway as growing at twice the rate of Dublin in the next 20 years.
But, according to the Construction Industry Federation, ongoing delays with several major projects are threatening to undermine the projected growth of Cork and the wider region. The CIF blames a combination of bureaucracy, an inadequate judicial review system, and our antiquated public sector procurement system.
But it is also clear that some significant private sector projects are delayed, or facing delays, as a result of stalled public sector infrastructural investment. Several critical projects, including the Dunkettle Interchange in Cork, the M20 and M28 motorways, the Events Centre in Cork, and funding for urban regeneration are all delayed.
It isn’t all bad news. Over the last 20 years, there has been very significant population and employment growth in the south-west region, thanks, in the main, to private investment.
It is also noteworthy that that 60% of the new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland’s client companies in 2018 were outside of the Dublin region, while 58% of jobs in IDA client companies are now based outside of the capital.
The Government now needs to match that investment by private interprise by making good on its promises. Delays and obfuscation are not an option.