12. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which, in the context of the capital review programme, he expects to be in a position to make provision for the projects previously identified as being integral to crucial infrastructure investment; if he will extend the remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53471/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017)
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: In the context of the capital review, what is the extent to which the Minister has managed to identify the most critical elements of infrastructure with a view to completing them in a reasonable period?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 157 together.
As I announced in budget 2018, the Government has allocated significant increases in public capital investment amounting to €4.3 billion over the period 2018-21. This was in addition to the additional €2.2 billion for housing already allocated prior to that for the implementation of the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. These funding allocations were informed and advised by the detailed analysis and assessment carried out in the context of the recent review of the 2015 capital plan, Building on Recovery, which I published in September. Consequently, between 2014 and 2021, public capital expenditure in Ireland will have more than doubled and as set out by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, this will see public investment in Ireland moving to among the highest in the European Union, EU. I am satisfied this new planned level of public capital investment represents an appropriate balance between the need for additional investment to realise the economy’s long-term growth potential, the capacity of the economy to deliver sustainable public infrastructure consistent with fiscal and macroeconomic sustainability and the need to adhere to the responsible and reasonable spending.
In the meantime, the delivery of a large number of public capital investment projects and programmes is proceeding. The position relating to any individual project is a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant responsible Minister and the review of the 2015 capital plan includes an update for each Department setting out the significant progress already being made in implementation. A copy of the review has been supplied to all Deputies. My Department also published a major projects tracker, providing an update on progress on all projects above €20 million.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I thank the Minister for his reply. Has the Minister placed special emphasis on the need to identify particularly sensitive infrastructure items with a view to recognising the fundamental elements they present in terms of delivery to a wider circle? To what extent does he see the possibility of advancing those as a priority?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: It is a priority and we want to advance a number of projects we believe will benefit many of our citizens. I would point to what we want to achieve in the housing area, where signs of progress are beginning to become tangible. We need to see more of that happening next year. I look at parts of Dublin with which I am familiar and see, for example, the opening of Broome Lodge in Cabra. Tomorrow morning we will confirm the project will go ahead at Mary’s Mansions, in the heart of Dublin’s north inner city. It has long needed further investment and the set of homes there needs more support than is currently available. We need to move ahead with hundreds of these types of projects across the length and breadth of our country. There has also been the completion of the Gort to Tuam road and the Luas cross-city project. I know the Deputy has a strong interest in road projects in his own county.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: They are very important.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: We will see them move ahead soon.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I thank the Minister. If the Minister intends going in that direction, will favourable consideration be given to requisitions from the various bodies whose responsibility it is to deliver in these projects, whether they relate to road, rail, bridge or elements of health and education services? To what extent will he sympathetically deal with those in the event of the responsible bodies and Ministers approaching him for advancements or expedited processes?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: We could be on tricker ground there.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: That is why I asked the question.
Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran: We were going well for a minute.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: From my extensive experience of this issue in recent years, it is one that will increase next year and beyond. Understandably, every Government agency only considers expenditure needs in its own area of responsibility. When all of that is added together, though, it represents a figure the Exchequer is not capable of meeting. If we could meet it, there would be a separate issue regarding the ability of our economy to translate those projects into reality on the ground because of the need to have workers available to do the work and projects delivered in a way that does not contribute to prices rising even further within our economy.
I have noticed a trend in recent years. There are a number of Departments whose demands, when combined at budget time, usually exceed by multiples all of the money that is available to the Government on budget day. I am beginning to notice that this is even more the case for Government agencies. If left to their own devices, each of them would make a pitch for nearly all of the additional resources that are available to the Government. We must monitor that and manage the balance carefully next year.
Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: I might be able to help the Minister with that.