Analysis claims IDA job projects are not going west


THE debate about the IDA's 1996 results and whether they show the west is losing out on job creation has been intensifying. The IDA has rejected earlier criticism from a member of the Council for the West, Dr Seamas Caulfield, saying his comments were based on an incomplete analysis.

Now Dr Caulfield has come back with a map, reproduced here, which he says shows the stark contrast between the authority's relatively poor performance in Connacht and the Border region on one hand, and the jobs bonanza in Leinster and Munster.

The map speaks for itself and its accuracy is not disputed by the IDA. It shows the net increase in IDA aided jobs last year was 7,276, compared with a net increase of 104 jobs for the northwestern half of the State.

Dr Caulfield has also analysed the labour force data compiled by the Central Statistics Office for 1995 and 1996. He says it shows net unemployment fell by about 8,000 in Munster and Leinster (excluding Louth) over the period, while the number of those unemployed in the rest of the State rose by the same amount.

An IDA spokesman says it is unfair to judge its performance on the basis of a single year's figures. He says Udaras na Gaeltachta, Forbairt and Shannon Development are also involved in job creation and the overall picture is different.

"Let's not have the debate too hung up on foreign industry jobs," he says. "They are only 11.5 per cent of GDP."

According to the spokesman, more than 60 per cent of all jobs in overseas owned industry come from the expansion of existing companies, a trend not always fully recognised by local development groups.

He says another way of examining the IDA's performance would be to look at job creation figures in relation to total population.

Taking this approach, the north west comes out on top, he says, with 3.3 per cent of the population (almost 7,000 people) employed in IDA assisted industry. The east has 2.7 per cent employed in the sector, or just under 37 500 people.

"If you take this analysis then all the east coast regions need more development to catch up on the western regions in the context of overseas industry jobs," he says.

"While there is no indication, as yet, of any kind of mass movement of overseas owned industry from the west to the eastern part of the country, the reality is that all of us are going to have to work hard to make sure that does not happen."

The spokesman says it is becoming increasingly different to secure new investments in the clothing, textile or other labour intensive industries which traditionally went to rural areas.

He says many large scale high tech investments of the kind announced last year are in companies which have "locational requirements" that can only be met near large population centres.

No one disputes the IDA's impressive performance in attracting such big projects which would otherwise go somewhere else. But this analysis ignores the successes of Udaras na Gaeltachta, which last year achieved record job creation results for the second year in succession.

Much of its net increase of 604 jobs is in high tech industries, although they are not large scale projects. The audio visual industry is now firmly established on the western seaboard, helped in large measure by the advent of Teilifls na Gaeilge. TnaG is by no means the full picture, however, as several companies are working with overseas partners on a broad range of projects.

Small is beautiful for the Udaras, which by definition is involved in job creation outside big urban centres. Ironically, its results have attracted the same kind of criticisms as the IDA, as more than half of the net increase (383 jobs) went to Co Galway.

But in its focus on small scale high tech enterprises, the Udaras may have a lesson for its bigger brother. Perhaps the two should get together and talk it over.