15 February 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth
With the general election campaign underway, Ibec Cork, the group that represents business in the region, today called for the next government to demonstrate much more ambition for investment and specifically for investment in the regions. Balanced regional development must be a key priority to ensure job creation and future economic growth right across the country. The future economic fate of regions cannot be left to chance.
Ibec Cork Regional Director Peter O’Shaughnessy said: “To date, growth and job creation has been very much Dublin-led. A study carried out by Amárach research indicated that 50% of total respondents feel the recovery so far has been limited to Dublin. At 40% of GDP, the Dublin area is responsible for a disproportionate share of national economic activity, and far beyond that of other capital cities across Europe. Regions have the potential to thrive and to contribute to the national economy but this can only happen if government policy is focused on ensuring that regions can reach their full potential.
Ibec Cork is calling on the next government to capitalise on the potential of regions and support balanced regional development by:
· Concluding the national planning framework. We need a detailed plan to support balanced regional development. Previous attempts at a national spatial strategy failed Cork because the political system refused to make the difficult decisions on the prioritisation of limited resources. A better targeting of investment will address the growing imbalance between the greater Dublin area and the rest of the country.
· Launching a new Atlantic cities strategy to ensure complementary growth, between Dublin and cities such as Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway. An effective Atlantic Corridor would generate sufficient economic and commercial synergies to act as a successful counterbalance to Dublin. The Amárach research identified quality infrastructure as the highest priority for promoting economic recovery outside Dublin. During the boom years we successfully connected Dublin to the other main cities. There is still a job to do to better connect all of our major cities to each other. Better connectivity between cities would boost trade and create growth. Inter-urban road connectivity is a critical and long overdue void in our national road network.
· Investing in education to ensure students develop the necessary skills to thrive when they enter the workforce. A skilled and versatile talent pool will strengthen the region’s credentials as an attractive location for businesses to set up.
· Creating a €25 million annual “town growth fund” to support the revitalisation of town centres. Under-performing towns impact the wider region. Visible reminders such as vacant premises must be addressed. Revitalising them will underpin future growth across the region.
“Strong efforts must be made to secure Cork’s future economic growth. We are calling on all election candidates to publically get behind the need for ambitious investment. It is time to capitalise on the potential of our regions. It will be up to the next government to make this happen, ”he concluded.