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Lack of investment threatens economic and social stability
The focus of the Programme for Government and 32nd Dáil must be on investment in infrastructure and services. Lack of investment in housing, health, childcare, rural broadband and education threatens economic growth and stability. The latest research from Social Justice Ireland in ‘Choices for Equity and Sustainability’ shows that a lack of investment is undermining Ireland’s economic and social stability.
Ireland’s ranking in global competitiveness has declined. A major factor in this decline is related to underinvestment in state funded areas: education; research; infrastructure; and broadband connectivity leading to a decline in the technological competitiveness of the economy. Increased, targeted and efficient government spending is a priority if Ireland is to prevent further decline.
Ireland's investment as a percentage of GDP has been among the lowest in the European Union for several years. Such a position cannot be allowed to continue. The funding requirements for our infrastructure and services should be benchmarked against the funding in those countries we aspire to emulate and compete with. The next Government must launch a substantial public investment programme. This will be good for the economy, for business and for society.
The Programme for Government should acknowledge that it is difficult, if not impossible, to meet the macroeconomic goals of full employment or infrastructural maintenance and expansion, or the social goals of adequate housing, healthcare and education services, without adequate levels of investment.
The most important factor in terms of attracting good businesses and generating productivity and growth is the quality of education, infrastructure and services in Ireland. The policy proposals outlined in ‘Choices for Equity and Sustainability’ provide the full details behind our draft Programme for Government for the 32nd Dáil. The focus of these proposals is on delivering a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation, good governance and sustainability.
The investment programme should target both economic and social infrastructure, including the construction of social housing units, the rollout of rural broadband, and improvements in water infrastructure, primary care facilities and childcare facilities. Social Justice Ireland has set out proposals on how this can be done in ‘Choices for Equity and Sustainability’.
This will require a substantial increase in the current level of investment, but would generate an increase in the number of full-time jobs available while also stimulating domestic consumption and improving the long run productivity of the Irish economy.
Given the fiscal constraints, an off-balance sheet investment may be necessary. Social Justice Ireland continues to argue for an off-balance sheet investment programme, particularly in the area of housing.
Social Justice Ireland believes that supporting an adequate investment programme is the only way to return the economy towards full employment and stop underemployment becoming entrenched. Substantial investment over a protracted period is required if Ireland’s social and physical infrastructure deficits are to be addressed. Such investment is also required given the demographic changes the country faces in the coming decades as the population grows and ages.