Ireland outlines €165bn National Development Plan

The government of Ireland has outlined its €165 billion National Development Plan 2021-2030, the largest such capital plan ever delivered in the history of the Irish state.

The government said the plan will have a particular focus on “priority solutions” to strengthen housing, climate ambitions, transport, healthcare, jobs growth in every region and economic renewal for the decade ahead.

“This plan will prepare us for population growth of approximately 1 million people between 2016 and 2040, and help us to deal with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit,” said the government.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: Government is committing significant additional funding and an increased level of ambition for collaborative cross-border investment under the Shared Island initiative.

“The €500m Shared Island Fund will be doubled out to 2030, and total all-island investment, including through the Shared Island Fund, the Project Ireland 2040 funds, the Government’s annual funding for North/South cooperation, and the PEACE PLUS programme delivered with the EU, UK and Northern Ireland Executive, is more than €3.5 billion.”

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) — which last month warned that the Irish government’s budget plans were “at the limit of what is prudent” — reacted to the plan in a series of  tweets.

The IFAC, Ireland’s budgetary watchdog, tweeted: “The capital plan will see Exchequer capital spending rise to €16.4 billion in 2030 from €9.8 billion this year and from a low of €3.4 billion in 2013.

“From 2022-2027, the amounts are on average about €3 billion more than set out in the last ten-year capital plan from 2018 …

“Including the vaguely defined ‘non-Exchequer’ spending, capital spending is projected to rise to almost 6% of national income in the middle of the decade, falling moderately to 5.5% by 2030.

“It would be better to present projections using the European general government standard …

“This will take public investment to one of the highest rates in Ireland’s history, and one of the highest seen in the OECD …

“The rise in capital spending should help the Government to directly address pressures in areas such as health, climate change, and housing, while availing of low interest rates …

“However, the speed of the ramp up in investment and the fact that it comes together with fast increases in current spending and some tax cuts implies risks.

“Capacity constraints in construction could also see the costs of delivering investments rise …

“With the public debt ratio already high and public investment management historically weak in Ireland, there is a greater need to ensure that future investments generate value for money in the coming years.”

Ireland’s public debt ratio rose to 104.8% of modified gross national income at the end of 2020 from 94.7% in 2019.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “We need to anticipate what the Ireland of 2040 will look like — what our jobs will be like, how we will travel, how we will live.

“With a rapidly rising population, Ireland needs to invest big in infrastructure.”

Since 2017, the percentage of Ireland’s gross national income committed to public infrastructure has risen from 2.5% to about 4.5% — higher than the EU average and well ahead of The Netherlands and Denmark.

“This updated NDP will see this level of investment continue and grow to 5% of GNI, from €12.7 bn this year to €19.3 bn in 2030,” said Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate Communications and Transport.

“We are investing in the future and going for growth.

This is a plan for a cleaner, greener, connected Ireland, a plan that supports communities and our climate goal – to cut emissions in half by 2030 – and creates a new green and digital economy.

“We’re making the biggest investment in transport in the history of the State – €35 billion over the decade – prioritising walking, cycling and public transport.

“Up to 80% of our electricity will come from renewables by 2030, and the NDP includes enhanced investment to make half a million homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

“We’re also bringing broadband to all parts of rural Ireland no matter how remote.

“This is a plan for a new Ireland; this will be a decade of change.”

Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said: With an investment of €165 billion this will be the largest and greenest National Development Plan in the history of the State.

“The NDP is the culmination of significant analysis and consultation, with extensive engagement across Government Departments and stakeholders over the past year.

“It is built on a strong evidence base that allowed Government to shape this strategically important plan for our country.

“The NDP is ambitious, with record levels of investment, but it is achievable.

“This ten year plan will deliver for our country.

“It will build a more resilient, sustainable future to improve lives and living standards for all of our people.”