Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today warned that political inaction and a lack of long-term planning means Ireland risks missing an opportunity to improve national infrastructure and relieve economic bottlenecks.
In a keynote address to the annual Ibec Business Leaders Conference at the Convention Centre, Dublin today, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy will warn that failure to take more decisive steps to relieve pressure on transport, housing, education and health infrastructure risks creating serious long-term economic and social problems. The conference is supported by event partners Accenture, Merc Partners and Vodafone.
At the event Mr McCoy will say: "We must not let the austerity mind set of the crisis dictate economic policy into the future. To benefit from the economic opportunities that now exist, we need to massively ramp up infrastructure spending. But the Government is not embracing this ambition.
"Government plans to put €1 billion annually into a rainy day fund and the new, arbitrary debt to GDP ratio target of 45% will reduce the money available for vital projects. It will deprive the economy and households of much needed investment and will be detrimental to quality of life. At a time when the cost of borrowing is at a historic low, these policies make no sense. Prioritising once off capital investment, while prudently managing day to day expenditure, is also the most effective way to protect the public finances from a future downturn.
"Ireland remains at the very bottom of the EU league table for infrastructure spend yet we are in a global race for investment. Government will remain the primary funder of infrastructure projects, but there is a growing role for the private sector. It is vital that Government increases its ambition around PPPs and reviews the current unnecessary cap on their use.
"A poor transport network, a jaded health infrastructure, an under supply of quality housing, and an education system at capacity will not only hold the country back economically, it will cause social problems for generations to come.
"The often inaccurate political narrative that has festered in other countries around the pressure that immigration puts on public services is a cautionary tale. If we don’t act now to ensure that capacity constraints on services are addressed through investment, we risk a similar dynamic emerging here."
On the proposed National Planning Framework, Mr McCoy will say: "We must progress the Framework without delay to address the growing imbalance between Dublin and the rest of the country. We have an opportunity to address our economic and social challenges, but only if it is underpinned by an all-Ireland approach to planning and increased State investment across our regions."