Saturday 22 October 2016

This capital plan needs to arrive within budget

Published 30/09/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

It was PJ O'Rourke who identified the delusion that government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth - acknowledging instead the elaborate planning required to waste vast amounts of public funds.

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Thus, when a bulging envelope of €27bn in capital spending is bandied about in the run-up to an election, the thought 'handle with care' immediately springs to mind.

Mindful of such perceptions, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has reassuringly pledged: "I am not placing Ireland back in hock again."

He argued that the plan is both affordable and realistic. Time will tell. The years since the crash have seen infrastructural projects starved of cash as the State coffers were bare.

The priority must be maximising value and effectiveness. The plan affords the Coalition a chance to showcase that the economy is not only in recovery, but has the dynamism to power ahead. It represents a transfusion of capital to revitalise transport, health, education and housing.

The 45,000 jobs trumpeted with such fanfare must be productive and meaningful. In the area of transport, €8bn has been allocated, and the centrepiece will be the new rapid transit system from Dublin city centre to Dublin Airport.

While some might look upon this as a 'boutique project', it has the potential to accelerate the development of the capital and meet the needs of a modern cosmopolitan city. It ought to give a valuable boost to both business and tourism.

On health, the development of a children's hospital has also been far too long on the drawing board. Repairs to nursing homes are also desperately needed, and the €450m set aside will go some ways to addressing the deficit.

In education, a vital expansive building roll-out is envisaged. It would be easy to say that the programme is cautious rather than ambitious.

But the real test will be if deadlines are met and objectives are achieved within budget.

Irish Independent

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