The Government has promised that every region of the country will benefit from its €27bn capital spending programme as it denied the promised plan was an election gimmick.
Public transport, school building, hospital facilities, Garda resources, and flood protection measures will be some of the projects benefiting from the six-year plan.
Opposition parties branded the spending spree “auction politics” and said many of the measures had already been announced and were still on the shelf.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny outlined how 45,000 jobs would be created by the capital projects. He said they would help regional growth, despite the cornerstone of the plan being a €2.4bn spend on a Dublin metro.
“People can see the emergence of the economic recovery impacting on their daily lives whether it be through observation of more lorries on the road, new cars, traffic jams or public transport under pressure or increase in demands of state services. These are normal challenges.”
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said a cost-benefit analysis was carried out on all of the planned projects. The highlight of these were the €2.4bn Dublin North metro, €3.8bn for new school places and facilities, €3bn on health facilities including the new national children’s hospital, and hundreds of millions for flood relief programmes and broadband commitments for rural areas.
Over €6bn will be spent on road projects, two thirds of which will go on upgrading existing routes. Up to €1.6bn of the roads funds will go on new routes, including the Dunkettle interchange in Cork, the N7 Naas to Newbridge, and the N5 Wesport to Turlough.
Mr Kenny said the plan was not a “catch-all for everybody” and that certain areas were prioritised.
While some of the spending commitments go all the way to 2027, Mr Kenny denied that he was trying to secure “political capital” launching the plan, with just months to go at most before the general election.
Another €15bn will be added to the spending plan through partnership with semi-state or private companies, ministers also said.
While the Government was accused of just restoring its capital spend levels which it cut after taking power in 2011, Tánaiste Joan Burton defended the plan.
She said the Government was curtailed by the troika and bailout commitments and that now was a good time to commit to big infrastructure projects with the cost of loans at a low level.
Fianna Fáil said the plan was akin to a “wish list”, with just months to go before an election. Public expenditure spokesman Sean Fleming said that the Government were relying heavily on private sector investment and on “someone here or abroad” to step in and fund projects.
“It’s a phoney plan... They should have called it a wish list,” he said while conceding that many of the proposed projects were worthwhile.
Transport spokesman Timmy Dooley said the plan neglected rural areas, especially the South and West. Fianna Fáil will launch their own pre-budget submission next week, which is expected to include proposed spending on infrastructure.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said many of the projects were announced before. She also insisted that the €27bn spending plan was not committing a huge amount more than what was already projected to be spent on state infrastructure.
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