Priority 5: Support for the regions
24 March 2017
Ireland is already one of the most economically imbalanced countries in the EU with the Dublin area producing over 40% of value added. This compares unfavourably with almost every other small European nation. The risks from Brexit will weigh heavily on the regions. On the other hand Dublin in particular is presented with some opportunity. Regional imbalance will get much worse due to Brexit unless Government takes targeted measures.
The capital budget - During previous slowdowns, the first budget item to lose out was the capital budget. Ireland's experience both in the early 1990s and in recent years is that the cyclicality of our investment spending only exacerbates downturns and stores up major infrastructure shortages for the recovery. The consequences of these mistakes are clear in our housing and key infrastructure they should not be repeated. Even with the welcome additional expenditure flagged in the programme for government, the Exchequer contribution to the new capital plan will be the smallest on record proportional to the size of the economy. Ireland is facing into rapid demographic growth and overheating pressures in transport, education, water, broadband, health and other public infrastructure which are affecting Ireland's competitiveness.
Regional balance - Ireland now has good road connections between Dublin and most of the regions (the exception being the North West). However, in the interests of balanced regional development we need to improve the radial links between our secondary cities. The road between Cork and Limerick is a particular case in point. We also need to improve the feeder roads to some of our ports and to expedite public transport initiatives in our capital.
Regional taskforces - Regions will face different challenges from Brexit. For the West it will be the threat to tourism, the threat to agribusiness in the South, and the border counties face a potential vacuum effect for consumer activity. In this context the establishment of regional taskforces on Brexit, through the existing regional action plan for jobs structures, would be a worthwhile exercise in establishing the opportunities and challenges for the regions to the impacts of both Sterling and longer term trade disruptions.