1. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the capital review; if the ten-year plan will outline funding beyond the timeline of 2021; the way in which it will co-ordinate with the national development plan; if it will incorporate findings from the IMF’s PIMA report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 47437/17 asked on 09 Nov 2017)
Deputy Dara Calleary: Will the Minister update the House on the progress of the review of the capital plan? Tomorrow is the closing date for the receipt of submissions on the review of the national planning framework. What alignment will there be between the two documents when the review is published?
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): As previously outlined to the Deputy in the response to his parliamentary question on this matter at the end of September, the capital review was published on 14 September. I understand all Members of the Oireachtas received a hard copy on that date.
To recap, the review of the capital plan highlighted some key themes which will closely inform and be incorporated into the analysis leading to the finalisation of the new ten-year plan for public capital investment 2018 to 2027. The themes include confirmation of the central role of public capital investment in underpinning the economy; the need to align public capital investment priorities with a changing demographic profile; the critical importance of public capital infrastructure in meeting the requirement for balanced regional growth and promoting the change needed to achieve our climate action objectives; responding to Brexit; supporting value for money; and ensuring we have a strong business case in place in spending the public’s money.
The review of the current capital plan identified a number of key sectors as priorities for investment, including transport, education, housing and health. The findings of the review assisted the Government in selecting priorities for the allocation of the additional €4.3 billion capital expenditure allocated in budget 2018 in the period to 2021. Consequently, between 2014 and 2021, public capital expenditure in Ireland will have more than doubled which, as set out by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, will see public investment in Ireland moving to be among the highest in the European Union.
The ten-year capital plan is in the process of being finalised. It will set out the public capital investment objectives beyond 2021. Across that period a key factor will be aligning this expenditure with the new national planning framework detailed in the Ireland 2040 plan. The previous lack of integration of expenditure with such plans contributed to the difficulties from which we are emerging. On foot of my request, this work will include the work carried out by the IMF on the public investment management assessment, PIMA, for Ireland.
Deputy Dara Calleary: When will the Minister announce the projects being aligned with the extra allocations? Second, I realise the national planning framework is the responsibility of a different Department, but its alignment with transport plans, for example, is weak. There are vague references to matters such as climate change which was mentioned by the Minister. Will we be given the list of projects before Christmas and will it be aligned with the planning framework, or will it be 2018 before the list of projects is prioritised? Transport infrastructure is creaking and under enormous pressure. What priority will be given to public transport projects, in particular, and what deadlines does the Minister anticipate for building the projects, as opposed to their announcement? Does he have plans to review the planning process with the capital plan?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: With regard to transport infrastructure, it is my objective to place a higher value on investment in public transport in the coming period. That is because it is a key way by which we will respond to the climate change challenges we face.
On the number of projects and the timing of their announcement, we will strike a balance. Given that Ministers are in the process of announcing various projects between now and 2021 or 2022, I anticipate that we will be making a number of commitments beyond that period to add weight to the ten-year plan. At the same time, however, it will not be feasible to make commitments that will use every resource allocated for all projects because there will be planning processes to be gone through and business cases to be put in place.
On the timing, it is my objective that in the first quarter of 2018 we will publish a tracker that will identify each project to which we have committed, where it stands and the progress being made towards its delivery or opening. That will be done in the first quarter of next year.
Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Question No. 2 is in the name of Deputy Pearse Doherty. Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has been authorised to put it to the Minister.