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15-11-1999 Taoiseach at the launch of the National Development Plan 2000-2006

 

I feel very privileged to have the opportunity today to launch Ireland’s National Development Programme for the next seven years. No other Taoiseach has had the opportunity to launch an investment programme which will have such a radical, transforming impact on the lives of Irish people. No other Government has produced a more ambitious Plan for investment in our economic and social future.

And I want to begin by offering my sincere thanks to all the people who prepared the Plan. In particular, I want to salute the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy T.D., the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney T.D., and all my Cabinet colleagues for their work.

I want to thank the social partners, the regional authorities and the new regional assemblies, for their advice and input on development issues as we worked this Plan through. The high level of consultation was new and has been an immense help to Government to getting the balances right.

And great credit is due also to the public servants who have laboured long to finalise this ambitious Plan for a future of peace and of prosperity for this country.

A Truly National Plan

The National Development Plan provides investment of over £40 billion pounds over the next seven years. This is investment on a scale never seen before in our history. The first and second National Plans involved about £20 billion pounds over 11 years. These figures speak for themselves.

This time the bulk of the investment will come from the people of Ireland, ourselves.

It is our Plan. It is a Plan for our country. It is Plan for our future. We have to make it happen, together.

Objectives of the Plan

This Plan aims to keep this economy at the top of the world league for competitiveness.

It will sustain our record level of employment, and help thousands of people into jobs over the next 7 years - especially young people entering, and women re-entering the labour market, and the unemployed.

It will sustain our growth, and address the array of challenges and problems which might throw us off track. It will tackle social exclusion. It will address the gaps between the richer and poorer regions of Ireland.

Framework of Policies

We have prepared this Plan carefully. It is designed to complement:

- the Review of the Action Programme for the Millennium, which provides the political basis for Government action over the rest of our term

- the consolidation of peace and of a new democratic order through the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement,

- the Budget, which the Minister for Finance will introduce on 1 December, and

- a successor agreement to Partnership 2000. Negotiations with the social partners have begun. I believe the publication of this Plan clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment to inclusive and planned investment, to improve the standard of living for all sectors of Irish society.

These objectives are designed to make concrete the Vision of a New Ireland, which the National Economic and Social Council has recently put forward.

Making this vision a reality depends crucially on Ireland maintaining its competitiveness. We must manage change, successfully. We must, for example, adapt quickly to the Information Society.

But we must also deal with the problems which accompany rapid economic growth. We are all too familiar with traffic congestion; increasing house prices; and the shortage of quality childcare places, while employers are facing shortages of certain skill types. Unless these issues are tackled effectively, we could damage our economic prospects, and real living standards will not improve.

Above all, we must realise the full potential of our people. We must tackle the problems of social exclusion, urgently and effectively. But we must also equip all our people with the skills and opportunities to cope with the pressures of change.

This Plan is no less ambitious than the scope of our Vision for a New Ireland.

But I would like now to comment briefly on just four important aspects of the Plan: Regional development, Northern Ireland, Social Inclusion and finally, Infrastructure.

Balanced Regional Development

And the first thing I want to make clear today is simple, but true. This is a Plan for development of the whole country, North, South, East and West.

We are determined to end the regional imbalances that have disfigured modern Ireland.

We know that we must spread growth beyond the East Coast.

This Plan gives the Border, Midland and Western region the best chance ever to match the economic development of the rest of the country.

We will invest over £13.5 billion in the Border, Midland and Western region, and over £27 billion in the South and East Region.

We aim to achieve balanced regional development in partnership with the Regional Assemblies, and through Partnership between the regions.

This Plan recognises that, while the regions have specific development needs, they are also interdependent. And so the Plan will take steps at three levels to promote balanced development. There will be investment in:

- Inter regional programmes to deal with infrastructure, productive investment and human resources.

- Regional programmes to respond to specific regional needs

- and attractive levels of State aid to facilitate the highest possible level of investment into the Border, Midland and Western regions.

Our aim is to bring opportunity, employment and development to all of Ireland in a new way. That includes the communities in Dublin and other parts of the South and East Region, which have yet to participate fully in the prosperity which others have been enjoying over recent years.

The Plan also gives effect to the recent White Paper on Rural Development.

Balanced regional development will benefit everyone, by spreading economic growth throughout the country, while reducing congestion in the East. The Government’s approach in this area is informed by a clearly defined regional policy, which will be articulated more fully in a National Spatial Strategy.

Social Inclusion

This Plan aims to overcome the gap in Ireland between the haves and the have-nots, the empowered and the powerless, the insiders and the outsiders.

The statistics for investment in Social Inclusion measures speak for themselves.

In total, some £15 billion is provided in the Plan directly to promote Social Inclusion.

£6 billion will target social and affordable housing over the next seven years. This is the largest investment in housing in the history of the State.

This investment will promote greater social cohesion in Ireland. And I know that we can do it.

Since the foundation of the State, the reality of long-term unemployment was accepted by many as an inevitable fact of life. We have exposed that to be a myth.

There are other realities today, which some may believe to be inevitable facts of modern life.

The reality of drugs.

The reality of inequality.

The reality of illiteracy.

I want to build a different reality for people. This Plan is about doing just that - building a new future for disadvantaged communities. It will help to

  1. get to the root causes of long-term unemployment
  2. break the cycle of disadvantage and poverty which has plagued whole communities and families for generations
  3. open up job and education opportunities to people in brand new ways.

Co-operation with Northern Ireland

This Plan aims to help us overcome the divisions of the past, too. And I wish now to extend a special welcome to friends from Northern Ireland who have travelled to be with us from Belfast. You have worked closely with us to develop an agreed strategy for North-South co-operation to 2006. This gives our Plan a vital all-island dimension.

The Good Friday Agreement provides a political context, and a strong foundation for the Common Chapter in the Plan.

For that reason, it is the hope of us all that the difficulties which have been impeding the full implementation of the Agreement can soon be overcome. As you will all be aware, work on the Review of the Agreement - especially by George Mitchell, who has gone well beyond the call of duty, and by the pro-Agreement parties who have achieved a better and closer way of dealing with each other - is now at a crucial stage in Belfast. The prize of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is within our grasp - in particular the establishment of the Executive and the North-South and East West institutions, and credible action on the disposal of arms.

I urge the pro-Agreement parties to take the steps necessary for that full implementation and create the basis for economic advance to the real benefit of both parts of the island. This advance can, in an important way, be underpinned by the Common Chapter in today’s Plan.

That Chapter provides for co-operation:

- along the Border Corridor,

- between the Border Counties and Northern Ireland, and for

- wider North-South co-operation within the island of Ireland.

And we have learned the lessons of past Plans. We have seen how we can achieve a higher economic dividend by working together, rather than separately. We have seen people and communities from differing traditions come together to develop their areas, for the betterment of all.

And we have seen how the EU Programmes have done great work for economic and social progress in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.

We are building on these lessons in the new Chapter which sets out areas of specific co-operation to 2006.

Other chapters in the Plan set out tangible, planned developments that will contribute enormously to North-South co-operation.

The Common Chapter sets out the areas of specific co-operation that are planned under various headings. As we are on the threshold of the operation of the new Executive in Northern Ireland, the strategic framework set out in the Plan has to be sufficiently flexible to adjust to changing circumstances, including the programme for government yet to be settled in Northern Ireland. This will be facilitated by the ongoing review and monitoring of the commitments in the Common Chapter, through the North South institutions and the EU Monitoring Committees.

Infrastructure: Public-Private Partnership and the National Plan

Given the pace of change in the world, this Plan recognises that we won’t achieve all of our aims by simply doing things the way we have always done them.

Information Society.

In an information society, dominated by the Internet, the quality of our people, our educational system and of our infrastructure hold the key to future success.

Transport

In the transport area, we are both increasing spending and using a new approach. The National Development Plan seeks to redress our transport deficit with investment on a scale never before possible. This is underlined by the total Public Transport provision of over £2.2 billion.

Record funding is also being made available for National Roads in the 2000-2006 period, with the total allocation amounting to a massive £4.7 billion.

PPPS

We are determined to adopt a public-private partnership approach to the delivery of infrastructure. We aim to make a real difference to people’s lives, especially in transport. PPPs have the potential to deliver better infrastructure projects on a more timely, and more cost-effective basis.

Whatever it takes to free up transport, we are going to do it. And if we find that progress is not accelerated, we will make whatever institutional reforms, and put in place whatever structures are necessary, to meet the public’s needs.

I chair a Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure Development. I am determined that people are going to get a decent transport system. In this case, There is No Alternative. We just have to deliver a top quality transport system, and we are going to make sure that we do.

Of course any Plan is only as good as its implementation. The new Regional Assemblies, the social partners, the lead Government Departments and Agencies all have a major role to play in ensuring that the Plan is realised. In particular, this Plan is conditional on the public finances being managed successfully. We will not be able to implement the Plan, or realise our Vision, if we lose control of the public finances, or see an erosion of our competitiveness.

I believe that this Plan provides a platform for the continuation of social partnership. Negotiations with the social partners are already underway. I am confident that the extremely ambitious programme of investment outlined in this Plan will be seen as a solid basis for a new national agreement. The Plan reflects the priorities identified by the National Economic and Social Council in their recent Strategy Report. It provides the investment to build the type of society to which we all aspire.

I believe that it would be a great shame if we failed to seize the opportunity which lies at our feet to solve old problems, to heal old divisions and to bring opportunity into Irish life in a new way. This may seem like idealism - but to me, it is common sense.

I believe the challenge which faces us all is to be practical idealists. I believe we need to have the courage and the vision to realise new ambitions for ourselves. Together.

And this is why I am enthusiastic for this Plan. It can, and it will meet the economic and the social challenges facing us.

I commend this National Development Plan to you.

Thank you.

 

 

ENDS