Public investment priorities

Another day, another public finances disaster story, another rise in unemployment, another question mark over what will and what will not be affordable for us, another onset of pessimism. It still seems to me that what we need more than anything else is a government statement of a national vision that will temper the mood of gloom and encourage a more can-do attitude amongst us.

But in the middle of all that, we will need to start looking again at some of our capital investment programmes. On RTE Radio’s ‘Drivetime’ today, my DCU colleague Tony Foley suggested that it is time to look again at the National Development Plan published by the Government in 2006. Over the period 2007-2013 this envisaged expenditure of €184 billion on major infrastructural and related projects, some of them seen as important on the basis of economic and trading projections that we now know to be wrong. Even as employment creation measures, as Tony Foley suggested, these projects could be questionable, as there would be much cheaper ways of achieving the same thing.

We may now need to face up the fact that some curtailing of these projects, and in some cases a re-engineering of them to fit changed circumstances, may be preferable to major tax increases that could damage Ireland as a place in which to invest. We should not scrap the NDP as such, but rather look at it again to see which elements of it are now important, and which could be reconsidered.

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