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Businesses want special fund to address State’s infrastructure problems

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Excess exchequer funds should be locked into a special fundto address major infrastructure deficits after a decade of underinvestment, one of the State’s biggest business lobbyists has told the Government.

In its pre-budget submission, Chambers Ireland, which has more than 10,000 members, said the Government should take advantage of what it called a “period of relative calm” to build up the State’s infrastructure ahead of an expected population growth spurt.

It said shortcomings in areas such as housing, transport and health were damaging the State’s reputation abroad and hindering efforts to recruit and retain staff.

“For the first time in five years, Government will be creating their budget without being under the shadow of an immediate impending crisis,” it said in its pre-budget submission. Ireland has, since Brexit, been navigating an uncertain world with unanticipatable crises impacting us in successive years. At last, Budget 2024, is being drafted during a period of relative calm.

“Government parties and Ministers need to use this opportunity to cement the gains that we have made and prepare for both the uncertain years we have before us and the impact of our population growth on infrastructure and services.”

The chamber pointed out the State is in an era of unprecedented tax revenues, which it suggested are “largely a result of the unique mix of businesses based on this island”.

“This windfall must not be squandered, and excess funds need to be locked into a special purpose fund that will ensure that the capital we need to make good on our infrastructural deficits is consistently available when needed,” it said.

The group added that the State’s tax base needs to be made “more resilient”, both through the broadening of the tax bands and the strengthening of the domestic economy.

Speaking at the launch of the submission, Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said businesses are “extremely concerned” about the infrastructure gap which, he added, is lowering the quality of life in Ireland.

“The challenges of recruiting and retaining staff is lowering our competitiveness and damaging our reputation internationally,” he said.

“Covid, Brexit and inflation have all delayed the closing of the gap which is the result of the post-crash decade of underinvestment. The economic problems our members are experiencing today are all problems of capacity; much of our energy, transport, housing, health and water networks are operating at or beyond their projected utility.”

Mr Talbot added that greater co-ordination was needed across Government to address shortcomings in climate targets.

“In 2024, we will be more than halfway towards the Sustainable Development Goals deadline of 2030,” he said. “It is clear that we are not delivering on these goals to our fullest extent. Too many Government policy decisions continue to be made in silos, with a lack of Government-wide co-ordination of activities undermining our progress.

“It is clear that incremental responses by agencies and departments to our national level problems needs to stop; bolder decision making across Government is the only way that we will outpace the problems around our housing, our town centres and our climate impact.”

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