Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today met with political representatives in the region to discuss key investment and planning priorities for the West along with measures needed in the upcoming budget to support the region’s future growth.
John Brennan, Ibec Regional Director for the West said, “Business will play a critical role in the future economic growth of the region. Connectivity, skills development and infrastructure provision must be prioritised, now more than ever, to mitigate the impact of Brexit and strengthen our competitive position. It is imperative that business takes the opportunity to liaise with policy-makers in setting priorities to support business and drive development of the region. Meeting with the political representatives in the West gives the business community a platform to do that and help bring the region to a new phase of growth and prosperity.
“Successful businesses are central to the West’s economic prospects and to the creation of a thriving regional economy. However, they are dependent on a strong infrastructure network. Investment in infrastructure is necessary to support job creation and the development of the region's economy. Poorly developed infrastructure is leading to bottlenecks and traffic congestion in parts of the region. Traffic congestion imposes costs on business, increasing average journey times and acting as a hindrance to attracting skilled staff and competing for inward investment.
"Government needs to tackle barriers that are obstructing the development of vital infrastructure. The planning process for strategic projects remains slow and cumbersome. We need to ensure fewer projects get bogged down in lengthy planning and consents procedures leading to significant reputational damage.
"It is vital we take decisive steps in Budget 2018 to offset the risks of Brexit. In order to support businesses, a multi-annual framework for funding Brexit mitigation should be put in place, targeted at supporting innovation, market diversification, upskilling and capital expenditure in equipment and machinery.
“Ibec welcomes the recent Government decision to reverse its debt reduction strategy of 45% of GDP, to allow for more capital investment. But the Government can, and must, do even more to implement long-term planning and place a sharper focus on increased infrastructure and education investment with the Exchequer funds now available. Better use must also be made of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other non-Exchequer finance, such as from the European Investment Bank. The path towards this should begin with Budget 2018.
“Ibec is calling on Government to give key infrastructure projects the high priority they deserve and ensure the region maintains its track record as a strong performing region for foreign direct investment. Efficient delivery will be key and must be led by a comprehensive National Planning Framework. The West faces a number of challenges, including a demographic and economic activity shift towards the East of the country. With the right infrastructure, skills supply and support in place, the region can play a significant part in addressing economic and societal imbalances."