Just weeks before the budget, business group Ibec yesterday stepped up its campaign to persuade the Government that spending big on infrastructure will help rebalance the skewed over-development of Dublin that it says is disadvantaging other regions.
Gerry Collins, Ibec’s new president, told both Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny that increased spending on upgrading transport links from Dublin to Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, as well as spending on social housing, healthcare, and education, would pay dividends.
Ibec has long called for a start to be made to restoring the huge austerity cuts taken to infrastructure spend during the crisis years.
However, the emergence of the long-delayed economic recovery has provided the business group with extra ammunition, because much of the huge economic upturn appears to be concentrated around the capital city.
In a speech last night at Ibec’s annual president’s dinner, Mr Collins, who is vice-president of global manufacturing at pharma firm Janssen, said Dublin is already groaning from recovery growth pains.
Mr Kenny was also due to address the dinner.
“Economic activity continues to gravitate toward the capital, stretching the city’s resources, pushing up costs and leaving other parts of the country behind,” Mr Collins said. “It is creating a worrying economic and social imbalance.
“At 40% of GDP, the Dublin area is responsible for an utterly disproportioned share of national economic activity, far beyond that of other capitals across Europe.
“In contrast, the Paris economy accounts for less than 10% of French GDP and London accounts for just over 20% of British GDP.”
Efforts must be made to transform Dublin into a leading world city, but not at the expense of other cities because, he said, “a lot of businesses don’t need or want to be based in Dublin”.
“We need national planning that drives future capital funding at both local and national level,” said Mr Collins.
“A new Atlantic cities strategy is needed to ensure complementary growth between Dublin and cities such as Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, in terms of size, infrastructure, population, and other resources.
“We need need national planning that drives future capital funding at both local and national level.
“We need investment that facilitates urban regeneration in brownfield sites in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, and the Dublin docklands.”
In a pre-budget submission yesterday, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) also called on Mr Noonan to spend more on infrastructure.
It has identified “priority areas”, including restoring construction to build more homes and promote “sustainable” jobs and training in the construction industry.
CIF directors met with Mr Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin.