Factory-building for votes rather than jobs

Cantillon: Using IDA-backed factories for electoral game is back in vogue

Getting an IDA advanced factory for your constituency was an achievement worth shouting about at election time

Getting an IDA advanced factory for your constituency was an achievement worth shouting about at election time

Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 01:01

Another sign of returning “normality” is the increasing enthusiasm being shown by politicians to use State agencies under their control to enhance their electoral chances.

This week saw the return of the “advanced factory” or “advanced technology facilities” as it seems they are now called. Anyone who was around for the last recession will remember these creatures.

Back in the day, getting an IDA advanced factory for your constituency was an achievement worth shouting about at election time. When the chances of getting some jobs for your constituency were pretty much non-existent, it was the next best thing as it represented the hope of some jobs.


Idle for years
The fact that many of these factories would stand idle for years was a secondary consideration. Indeed, having been bullied into building factories where no sensible multinational wanted them but politicians needed them, the IDA was then excoriated by the same politicians for failing to find a tenant. The apparent return of such gombeenism is dispiriting but not unexpected. What is perhaps more worrying is the extent to which electoral considerations are starting to influence policy in other areas.

The timing of yesterday’s announcement that the IBRC’s liquidators will repay their short-term borrowings from Nama is fortuitous for Government candidates currently pounding t he streets in search of local and European votes. It allows a €25-billion-plus defeat for the taxpayer to be portrayed as some sort of victory.

Something similar might be in the offing for Nama itself come the general election – which could be anytime between now and 2016. Nama – which is not due to wind up until 2020 – seems to be under pressure to wind itself up ahead of time. This would play well at general election time but may not be in the best interests of the taxpayer.

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