Friday 23 March 2018

Schools and flood fixes get €200m

The report says €100m is for repairs to transport infrastructure damaged by floods
The report says €100m is for repairs to transport infrastructure damaged by floods
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

There is scope for €200m more spending this year on schools and flood repairs, the Department of Finance's chief economist has said.

John McCarthy told TDs that while the fiscal space for Budget 2017 is "pretty much locked down at €1bn", there's "a little bit more scope for spending this year".

He said that "€200m for schools and for flooding" was identified in the mid-year expenditure report.

The report says €100m is for repairs to transport infrastructure damaged by floods.

The sum for schools had yet to be determined when the report was published but Mr McCarthy's remarks at the Dáil's Budgetary Oversight Committee indicate that around €100m is to be allocated.

A Department of Education spokesman said the amount has yet to be ascertained but that the funding will facilitate 116 major projects either under construction or in planning.

Separately, Mr McCarthy told TDs that there has been a reduction in the projected growth for this year and next.

Ireland's GDP growth is now projected at 4.2pc. That's down from 4.9pc predicted by the summer economic statement.

Next year's GDP growth is being estimated at 3.5pc, down 0.5pc on previous forecasts.

Mr McCarthy said the current outlook is "characterised by considerable uncertainty, with the impact of the Brexit vote still unfolding".

He also warned of relatively subdued growth in many advanced economies and a fear the world economy has entered a permanently lower growth phase.

"In overall terms, it is our assessment that the balance of risk . . . is firmly tilted to the downside," he said.

Mr McCarthy also highlighted that just five of the 189,000 enterprises in Ireland are responsible for a third of exports.

AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett said this is "shocking" and that it appears to present an "extreme risk".

Mr McCarthy said that while such corporations are significant employers and contribute to the Irish economy, "it does raise concentration risks. There's no doubt about that".

He said this risk can be mitigated by remaining competitive, ensuring workers have appropriate skills and that Ireland is seen as a good place to live.

However, he said the risk can never fully be eliminated.

Irish Independent

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