Deasy Ensures Investment Fund is Regionally Assessed

Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy has amended legislation to ensure that the new €6.8 billion Ireland Strategic Investment Fund will, for the first time, require Government to take account of where major State moneys are spent on a regional basis.

The National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Bill 2014 passed Report Stage in the Dáil after the Government accepted the substance of Deputy Deasy’s proposed amendments “to track where the Fund goes — and where it doesn’t”.

Designed to generate commercial activity, the ISIF is drawn from the National Pension Reserve Fund, which, he said, “was intended for the entire country”. Coupled with private sector capital, it has the potential to provide a national economic injection of €15bn.

However, the governing legislation, as originally drafted, contained no consideration of where the Fund should be focused — failing to factor in regional employment deficits.

Speaking in the Dáil, where he received broad cross-party support, Mr Deasy said: “This Fund is probably the only stimulus package this country will see for years. But the way it’s put together, potentially 90 per cent of it could be concentrated in Dublin.”

He found it “extraordinary” that “no thought was given to where the money might end up” despite “parts of this country receiving no Foreign Direct Investment in the past 30 years”.

Deputy Deasy said that adding a regional oversight dimension to how the Fund operates was critical if it’s to be a catalyst for growth in parts of the country that are “at best stagnating”.

To think recovery “will eventually trickle down to ‘the provinces’ is a pretty lazy attitude”, he said. “Government, across the board, needs to compensate for the fact that in some cases there has been no appreciable recovery in parts of this country … Compared to Dublin it’s a different world.”

His reporting requirement will see the Fund’s distribution monitored on an ongoing basis, providing the Finance Minister with a regional assessment of its impact on economic activity and employment.

Deputy Deasy added: “From talking to ministers and senior civil servants, they all agree there’s been an inordinately uneven spread of investment in this country. However, nothing has happened.

“So for this to be put in writing by the Department of Finance is very significant. It actually amounts to a tacit acknowledgement by Government that there is regional imbalance and it’s the first time a regional assessment of an investment, or the lack thereof, has been required in law in a major financial measure. That was the point of this.”

In his view, “where the money doesn’t go needs to be a policy consideration in itself in the future and should probably be standard in every major State/ EU-funded spending measure from now on”.

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