Ireland is overly reliant on Dublin with the capital accounting for 43% of the country's GDP business group Ibec has said.
The organisation said that post-Covid-19, the country must prioritise the reduction of this imbalance and target growth in the regions particularly Cork and the Mid West.
In its submission to the mid-term review of the National Development Plan (NDP), Ibec said that decades of chronic underinvestment in key infrastructure is threatening to undermine the prospects for economic recovery.
"Cork is earmarked to be the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country under Project Ireland 2040. This requires the support of substantial investment in key infrastructure," the submission states.
"These growth-enabling projects must be delivered in a timely and accelerated manner. The NDP will be a key enabler to ensure Cork fulfils its potential as a modern city of scale with strong local, regional, national, and international connectivity. Through ambitious investment, it must ensure that Cork remains one of the most attractive locations for FDI and continues to provide the skills, talent and quality of life that draw these vital employers to Cork."
Specific investment priorities that IBEC want to see include progress on a light rail system for Cork, development of the city docks and Tivoli, increased financial support for Cork Airport and improved educational facilities at UCC, MTU and the Tyndall Institute.
Ibec said similar investments are required for the Mid West and Kerry. "The Mid-West is particularly exposed to the adverse effect of Covid on tourism’s significant visitor and revenue decline. Limerick has a high dependency on foreign tourism, coupled with its higher-than-average dependency on North American tourism. Kerry’s dependency on the tourism sector is highlighted by the fact that almost one in five jobs are dependent on the sector."
Ibec recommends continued financial support for Shannon airport for a five-year period along with developing a business case for a new commuter rail link between Limerick and Shannon.
Ibec Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Fergal O’Brien said: “While the plan for economic recovery must address multiple evolving aspects of both the Covid and Brexit crises, the experience of the past year has shown that Ireland now has unprecedented wealth-generating capacity to ambitiously resource this plan."
"A substantially enhanced and more ambitious NDP must therefore be central to the recovery strategy," he said.
“The next ten years will see a transformation in the country. By 2030 there will be 1.1 million additional people on the island. We have also set ambitious targets to decarbonise society and the economy, implement the National Planning Framework to re-balance regional growth, and encourage major changes in how people live and work, over the coming years."
"Whilst the short-term focus may be on the challenges and changes brought about by Covid-19 and Brexit, we must plan for these less dramatic but equally important long-term challenges which litter our country’s path. We will not maximise the benefits of these significant changes without careful planning and significant investment."