The commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government to encourage a better spread of jobs throughout the country is underpinned by the provisions in the programme relating to balanced regional development. This chapter sets out an extensive list of policy initiatives which will be pursued in the coming period. The relative position of regions, in terms of employment and other variables such as GDP per head, is a very significant determinant of policy at both EU and national levels. These factors determine the focus of policy on matters such as Structural Funds and state aid to enterprise. For example, the maximum approved rate of grants to support new investment in the manufacturing and internationally traded service industries in the period 2000 to 2006, for large firms, is 40% in the BMW region and 17.5% in Dublin. The rate in the other four regions in Ireland is currently around 30% and will be around 20% for the period 2004 to 2006.
Regional emphasis is a strong feature of the various programmes adopted under the national development plan and carried out through the Structural Fund operational programmes. It is underpinned by the stronger regional emphasis which has been introduced into the work of agencies such as IDA and Enterprise Ireland. The IDA is committed to delivering half of all new greenfield jobs to the BMW region in the coming years, an objective which it is on target to achieve in the period to 2003. In 2002, Enterprise Ireland aims to commit in excess of 30% of its financial supports to projects in the BMW region. In supporting the provision of incubator space in the institutes of technology, Enterprise Ireland has recently committed over €14 million to six colleges in the south and east region, and €7.9 million to four in the BMW area. Both agencies have focused their resources on regions outside Dublin and particular account is taken of the needs of the regions in matters such as transport, roads and telecommunications infrastructure.
Regional development will continue to be a strong focus of policy. This will be facilitated by the completion of the national spatial strategy, which is under way at present. Regional impact will also be one of the main factors to be considered in the mid-term review of the operational programmes from 2000 to 2006, to be carried out in 2003.