Competitiveness Council calls for capital spend to go 'beyond' €27bn plan
The Government's budget for large-scale infrastructure projects must be increased "as a matter of urgency", according to the National Competitiveness Council.
The Coalition previously unveiled plans to spend €27bn on major infrastructure ventures, such as roads and hospitals, over the next six years.
This figure rises to €42bn when investments from the wider semi-state sector and public-private partnerships are factored in.
While it welcomed the spending commitment, the council said the plan did not go far enough. Its 'Competitiveness Challenge 2015' report, published this morning, said the council believes it is time to "significantly increase the capital expenditure budget, beyond the increases flagged in the 'Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016-2021' plan.
"Given the lead time it takes to deliver capital projects, the capital budget should be increased as a matter of urgency."
It added that although Ireland must maintain a "sound budgetary position", currently there is "essentially no scope for investment in infrastructure improvements (which are) vital to cater for future demand growth".
The council also said that increasing capital investment would increase potential growth in the "medium term".
It quoted statistics from the European Commission, which show Ireland's spend on capital investment at just over 2pc of GDP in 2015, behind Austria and the Netherlands, which spent 2.9pc and 3.5pc of their GDP on infrastructure respectively during the year.
The council said the figures showed that Ireland is investing "significantly less" than many countries "against whom we compete for trade and investment."
It added: "This will remain the case, even allowing for the increased capital allocation outlined in the new 2016-2021 capital plan. Capital investment as a percentage of GDP should at least mirror levels in competitor countries that are at a similar stage of infrastructural development."