Government announces ‘modest’ €150m stimulus progamme

Funds raised from sale of State assets will be directed at roads, schools and home insulation, says Brendan Howlin

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn at yesterday’s announcement. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn at yesterday’s announcement. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Government has announced a new jobs stimulus worth €150 million using money raised from the sale of State assets this year, particularly the proceeds of the National Lottery licence.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin yesterday unveiled what he accepted was a “modest enough” package in budgetary terms. Under the plan €50 million each will be allotted to the repair of local roads; to 28 new school projects; and to energy efficiency measures on 25,000 local authority homes.

The Government claims the plan will lead to the creation of 3,000 jobs.

While describing it as modest, Mr Howlin nevertheless said it represented a “turning point for capital investment” after several years of severe cuts in budgets.

He also said that after initial challenges in getting public private partnership (PPP) projects off the ground, there was now definite “momentum” in this area.

The recent successful conclusion of a PPP for a schools bundle and the N11/Newlands Cross PPP were both “important confident-building measures” in that regard and that a further €250 million worth of PPP projects were now in the pipeline..

The plan is separate from, and additional to, the €2.25 billion stimulus plan that was announced by Mr Howlin in July last year and which has promised to create 13,000 jobs.

He said that that plan, which will use a combination of funding including money from the National Pension Reserve Fund, private funding, and the European Investment Bank, was proceeding well.

Mr Howlin was joined in the press conference by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan.

Each of their departments has been allocated €50 million under the plan.

The roads investment will allow for the repair of an extra 600km of road.

The 28 school projects identified should be ready to start by the end of the year, with the department itself providing an additional €40 million to bring the total investment in this part of the plan up to € 90million.

The energy efficiency work in 25,000 local authority houses will bring their Building Energy Ratings (BER) from G to as low as D, said Ms O’Sullivan.

Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Sean Fleming said €500 million in cutbacks had been announced in the budget for capital spending.

“Even if they spend every penny of the €150 million they will still have €350 million less for capital spending than they had last year,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, asked about the National Road Authority’s proposals for multiple-tolling on the M50, reiterated his opposition to the idea, saying he did not think it was a good idea now or in the future.

The Minister said the sale of the lottery licence would be completed by the end of this year. A portion of the money (€200 million) has been ringfenced for the new children’s hospital, but the balance may be allotted to other projects.

Funds from the sale of other State assets may also be realised this year. Under an agreement with the troika of international lenders, half of the proceeds from the sale of State assets will be allowed to be invested in job stimulus programmes.