PAUL MILLS: Balanced growth for all needed more than ever

It is hard to argue with the contention that we should have a balanced economy. It means an economy that not only has a broad mix of industries where we are highly effective and competitive but an economy that enhances the potential of the whole country.

Earlier this week the Limerick Chamber criticised the dominance of Dublin Airport. It said that aviation must be a key focus area for the Government if it is to redress the current economic imbalances. In its submission to the National Planning Framework (NPF), the chamber said in the long-term, regional cities will play a key role in rebalancing the national economy.

While the chamber specifically referred to cities in the west, it is more than reasonable in my view to say that southern cities have played and will play an even bigger part in the sustainable growth of the Irish economy. However, they will only do so only if investments flow to ensure that such locations have the infrastructure, as well as the necessary trained people to attract and develop the industries and businesses of the future.

Over recent months there has been much attention to the potential for Ireland to attract many of the EU focused businesses that currently operate in the UK. The UK’s impending exit from the EU will mean that many organisations — but particularly the EU regulatory organisations based in London — will have to find a new home.

It’s probably fair to assume that a lot of these organisations are currently based in the UK given the size of the UK economy but also because the UK was and still is one of the main contributors to the EU coffers. Inevitably, most of these organisations and companies will likely move to mainland Europe and not consider Ireland because we are neither a major economy nor a big contributor. On the other hand, there are those companies who will look to Ireland as a potential location.

As it stands, Dublin will most likely be the location chosen for any relocations coming from the UK due to Brexit. It has the infrastructure, it has a critical mass, it has the entertainment venues and it, almost exclusively, has the airline frequency and connections.

However, it does have a housing crisis and the expensive prices and costly rents.

It also has traffic problems that the city appear unable to deal with. It’s as if they want to frighten people away. Well, if Dublin does not want these potential industries to select Dublin, people in Cork, Limerick and other locations would be delighted to attract them.

In a speech, the possible new Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said that landlords of rental housing should be treated like other businesses. He appears to be taking a pro-business approach.

The access to a location that frequent flights and access to key destinations offer are important for the south and west of Ireland.

None of this should be a surprise. For a long time, foreign companies based here have made it clear that frequency and connectivity are critical issues. Yet, the needs of Cork, Limerick and Waterford are ignored.

If we include the failure of Government to provide adequate roads between major locations such as Limerick and Cork, it’s hard not to get the impression that Dublin is the only focus.

A balanced economy is imperative if we are to maintain the economic growth.

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