Written Answers. - Rural Development Policy.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

154 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the White Paper on Rural Development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3681/03]

The White Paper on Rural Development published in 1999, sets out a vision and a framework for the development of rural communities and marks a new approach and commitment by Government to rural development. The overall strategy decided by Government provides for balanced regional development to ensure that the benefits of economic progress are distributed throughout rural areas investment in services and infrastructure, sustainable economic development, human resources development and a determined focus on poverty and social exclusion.

The national development plan is the vehicle for delivering the commitments in the White Paper. There is a specific chapter on rural development with a commitment to public investment of €8.5 billion over the period 2000-2006 in actions which directly impact on rural areas. These range from payments to farmers on, for example headage and REPS, to rural infrastructure, capital investment in the food sector and rural enterprises. Many of the other investments in the plan will also have indirect benefits for rural communities such as employment development, better roads and transport services, new housing and improved health services.

In addition to the national development plan investments, I also introduced, in October 2001, the CLÁR programme for disadvantaged rural areas. An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to continue the CLÁR programme, ensuring annual funding, and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. Last month I announced the revision of the CLÁR areas. It is not practical here to outline every topic covered in the White Paper. However, I am sending separately to the Deputy a detailed progress report, presented to the National Rural Development Forum at its meeting in Portumna on 17 January last, which outlines the position up to the end of 2002.