Senator McGowan has the floor. Senator McGowan, you have eight minutes.
National Development Plan: Statements (Resumed).
A Leas-Chathaoirligh, I hope you will be more generous than that with time. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important issue. We lost a lot of focus and time yesterday when we concentrated on how much Ireland might get and the existing difficulties between the EC Commissioners and the negotiators on behalf of Ireland. We should focus on the people in rural Ireland who are capable of assessing the negotiations taking place and the different amounts that have been referred to. The people can see that our Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Finance are very capable. There is no lack of confidence nationally in the ability of those three people to negotiate on behalf of Ireland. If we had Deputy Yates and somebody else negotiating, would we have a different——
I ask the Senator to refrain from mentioning Members of the other House. It is not the practice in this House.
I will accept your recommendation. Yesterday I was trying to focus the debate on how the National Development Plan would affect the west. It is recognised that the west has a real problem and its difficulties are added to because it is a Border region. If the American and the Canadian taxpayers can put money into the International Fund for Ireland to spend in the Border counties, that should in itself be a message to the Government to recognise that there are difficulties in the north-west and in the Border counties. I am very disappointed not to see more emphasis on the west in the National Development Plan. I see major expenditure on the ports of Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Rosslare, the Shannon estuary and airports at Dublin and Cork. The nearest development to the west is the improved rail link between Sligo and Dublin. It is not good enough.
This pattern of expenditure has been with us for a long time. The west of Ireland, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, including the county you come from, has not been getting its fair share. The bishops are out to save the west and work together. That is another contribution. Those of us who have the responsibility of being elected to represent any part of rural Ireland have a serious problem. I am bitterly disappointed. I did not ring up my local newspaper, but I mentioned yesterday that two colleagues in Donegal rang up and claimed that Donegal projects had been overlooked. I did not condemn the National Development Plan in the local Donegal newspapers, because I have an opportunity to speak here. This is my opportunity to say what I think about the funding which everybody in the country welcomes. Whether it is £7 billion or £8 billion or some figure in between, it is very big money. It is a tragedy not to focus on the value of that money to the country.
Those who direct expenditure and plan projects will make a major mistake if they look on Ireland as consisting of Tallaght and north Dublin and focus on the serious traffic problems which exist in Dublin city at the price of neglecting the west. If the Government were to do that, they would condemn the west to the dole for a hundred years. A 10 per cent levy would have to be imposed on those who are employed to keep the dole wagon rolling into the west.
I am also disappointed with the county enterprise boards. I am a member of the enterprise board in Donegal which has had its first meeting. Maximum funding of £50,000 is available from the county enterprise boards. The classifications used in the past by the IDA are now used by the county enterprise board. There is no funding for furniture manufacture or repair, the manufacture of doors or windows, of fabricating steel or fabricating wooden roofs. That is all excluded. That means the county enterprise boards will have a man's job to try to get people off the dole.
I do not want to be negative in my approach — it is not the role that I have played during my 25 years in this House — but the enterprise boards will not work because of the limit of £50,000 and because of the formalities. The application form contains seven pages covering tax and banking matters and the experience the applicant has had in business over the last four years. It will not work. It will not take one single person off the dole in rural Ireland today. It is a tragedy. After the enterprise board and the assessors look at projects they then have to be submitted to Dublin for another examination. Can we do nothing without wrapping it in bureaucracy? If Brussels can trust this country with £7 billion and we set up county enterprise boards, putting a ceiling of £50,000, on individual projects, can we not trust them to make an assessment and decide on the spot? If we were serious about creating jobs in rural Ireland we would do it. There is not a chance that the county enterprise boards will ever get off the ground and create a single job. I would not say it to throw cold water on that effort. I am interested in the development of my county, which has many disadvantages, but I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will not work. It gives me no great joy to say that. It is a disaster and I am expressing myself publicly, as my colleagues have done in County Donegal, to the extent of ringing up the newspaper and saying that there is nothing in the National Development Plan for County Donegal.
The Senator's time is up and I have allowed him injury time.
Thank you very much. The implementation of this plan is of vital importance. Some people are carried away by the cries from Aer Lingus. That company has muscle and those who are interested in future elections, and go out to see how many votes are involved. The people of Donegal and the west cannot block the street outside this House. We do not have that muscle.
I will have to ask the Senator to conclude.
I am finishing and I appreciate your assistance. It would be a national disaster if rural Ireland, and particularly my county that has suffered so long and so much, was left out. There have been crocodile tears and platitudes about what to do about the Border problem. Let us start now and recognise that we have a difficulty in the Border counties and in the west of Ireland and let us contribute part of the National Plan funding to that area that has been so badly off for so long.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the National Development Plan. Yesterday, when we started our debate on this matter we had the Minister for Finance with us. I do not think this is the time to score political points. The success of the National Plan is far too important for our future to do that. In his speech to the House yesterday the Minister said that the plan...
...established our allocation from Structural Funds and the new Cohesion Fund at approximately £8 billion for the years 1993 to 1999. It was on this basis that the Government gave its assent to adoption of the framework regulation which is the legal basis for disbursement of the newtranche of Structural Funds. The Irish Government expect and envisage that the assurance given by the President of the Commission will be honoured in full. The National Development Plan has been prepared and will be implemented on this basis.
In the light of what has happened in the past two days we should be given clarification of what this plan is to be based on. If it is on the basis of receiving £8 billion and that is not coming, then this House deserves to be told exactly what we are to get. It is unfair to expect us to debate a plan that has been prepared on the basis of receiving £8 billion if we are not to receive that.
One criticism I would make is that we did not have an opportunity to discuss the plan before it went to Brussels. We have had to wait until our allocation has been reduced before we get a chance to discuss it. The main issue that this plan concerns itself with is jobs, as stated in the first line of the synopsis of the plan, yet the reality is that this plan is not about employment but about getting and spending funds from Europe. We have to do other things to achieve the employment potential spoken of in the plan. In terms of its main objective of getting funds from Europe, the plan has obviously been well prepared and has been readily accepted in Brussels. Unfortunately, however, the amount of money on which the plan is based has obviously been reduced. We should be given an explanation.
It should not be confused with the strategy for employment because on its own it is an insufficient response to our huge unemployment crisis. If spending money could eradicate the huge level of unemployment then this plan might well achieve it. Evidence from the past, however, shows that throwing money at job creation cannot be guaranteed to produced jobs that are sustainable in the long term, which is what everyone is interested in.
Whether this plan is effective will have more to do with how the money from Europe is spent rather than the actual amount.
Every development plan that we have seen in the past decade has placed job creation at the top of its list of priorities, yet unemployment has grown relentlessly to crisis proportions. The task of the Government is monumental. The plan has to be accompanied by many other measures such as radical pro-jobs tax reform. It has to make a concerted attack on poverty traps. The whole rationalisation of our social welfare and tax system has to take place quickly because large sections of our population find themselves in poverty traps and find it difficult to get out of the welfare system. There has to be an insistence that wage competitiveness is the key to translating into jobs the growth that we hope to get from this plan. If we have the courage to do all these things together, hopefully we will achieve the targets we have set for employment in this plan. The core structural problems that the Government must address include a perverse tax and social welfare system that leaves a married man with four children earning £15,000 worse off in net terms than his counterpart on just £8,000.
We are talking about creating employment but should also address ourselves to the problem of maintaining existing jobs. Over the period of this plan it is hoped to create 200,000 jobs but it is also expected that between 100,000 and 130,000 jobs will be lost in the non-agricultural sector. That is a huge loss. The plan relies on emigration, because of the huge numbers coming into the workforce every year, to relieve our problems or help us to maintain unemployment at the present level. If we did not have the huge job losses that are anticipated we would be able to absorb the vast majority of those coming into the workforce. The 200,000 jobs would then be available for these people and would not have to be taken by those who are going to lose their jobs.
It is very important for the Government to concentrate its efforts on maintaining existing employment. We cannot be very hopeful if we look at the evidence from the last budget. Then the Government introduced a 1 per cent levy as well as increasing VAT on textiles and labourintensive industries to 21 per cent, thereby contributing to the reduction of jobs. This Government has a huge majority and has to be courageous in taking the measures necessary to complement the national plan. It would have the support of the Opposition if it was prepared to take the bull by the horns and recognise these matters. Launching the plan, the Taoiseach said he realised there were other economic factors that had to be looked at, and I would urge the Government to do that. The Government has talked about the next budget but it had an opportunity in the last budget.
The Government promised the recommendations of Culliton would be implemented. People are asking why this is taking so long. Culliton was very strong on tax reform but I think the Government is quite frightened of it. When we were in Government with Fianna Fáil we began to go down the road of tax reform and had progressed quite steadily in that direction. If we were still in Government, tax reform would have continued this year and we would not have seen the backward steps that were taken in the last budget.
There are many areas in this plan that must be welcomed. It is trying to reach out to the marginalised, the excluded, the long term unemployed as well as areas which are in crisis, whether urban or rural. The Minister for Finance on radio this morning spoke of looking after the greater Dublin area. There are large areas in rural Ireland that need a lot of attention and my concern is that there will be a concentration on the large urban areas, especially when there appears to be a reduction in the funding available. The rural areas need support. Many problems arise because of a high concentration of people in the cities, especially in Dublin. If rural areas were supported to a greater extent and if people were encouraged and were given the opportunity to stay in these areas many of the problems related to crime and so on would be reduced.
The plan is optimistic in estimating that the private sector will contribute £4 billion in funds to the plan. I do not believe that the private sector can be expected to invest in industry for as long as the Government makes it more attractive to put money in the bank. If the international economy continues to make a slow recovery then the private sector will be more reluctant to invest. All of these areas must be examined by the Government and it must make it attractive for private investment in the economy, otherwise this investment will not materialise and we are not going to have the jobs that are forecast.
I have spoken about the number of jobs that this plan is expected to create. The growth rates that have been forecast for the economy over the next four to five years, at 3.5 per cent, are considerably less than the growth rates we have had over the last five years. We were unable to tackle the unemployment crisis with those growth rates, so how are we going to do it with lower growth rates? Obviously we would have to expect that job losses are more likely to happen than the job gains.
The money coming from Brussels is not free money and this is probably going to be our last chance to get anything like this amount of money. For that reason we have to invest the entire sum wisely. Given some of the areas that I am concerned with, I wonder does the Government have the ability to take hard decisions, decisions that make good business sense and which help the country to generate the jobs that it so badly needs?
Senator Quinn spoke yesterday of his concern that the funds appeared to be spread too thinly over too wide an area rather than concentrating on key areas that would give us employment. He referred to the development on the east coast and his concern that the west would be ignored. He felt that all investment in tourism and so on should go into the west, which I would support.
Senator Quinn mentioned that he was recently at the opening of a factory in Dundalk and the reason that the factory was located there was because of proximity to the port of Larne. The National Plan proposes the development of six ports in the Republic. This is one of the key areas where the Government has not taken a hard decision. Larne is one of the key exit ports from Ireland. Trucks from all over the Republic drive north to Larne rather than using ports closer to them in this State. There are two reasons for this. First, there are lower costs and, second, there is a greater frequency of sailings out of Larne. By our seeking to develop no fewer than six ports in the Republic we are spreading scarce capital resources too thinly and we will not have the frequency of sailings that Larne currently offers. What is required is that we dedicate all our investment into two key ports and we decide which ports they should be, perhaps Dublin and Waterford, which would serve the south of the country. We should concentrate our resources and obtain a better facility for those using such ports and cheaper access to our markets abroad.
One of the reasons Irish industry finds it difficult is that we are on the periphery of Europe. We are further away from our markets than others and we are getting these funds from the EC because of this disadvantage. Therefore we must use these funds to give us more advantage. If we could examine areas like our ports I believe that we could give the Irish taxpayer better value for money, better value from the expenditure that is proposed in this plan and the return would be greater.
Regarding the modes of transport, again choices have to be made. The plan fully accepts that our road and rail network have been under funded and I welcome the substantial investment in these areas. We have to accept that they are substantially substandard in European terms. To get our goods to market and get people into the country for tourism and so on we have to improve our roads. I welcome the investment in the railways. I am fortunate that I live in an area which has a railway station with frequent services to Dublin and the rest of the country. This is of great benefit to the economic life of the county that I live in and it enables people to continue living in that county and commute. However, the plan proposes massive investment in roads and railways, together with investment in a whole string of regional airports. I do not believe we can afford to undertake all of these projects. We must prioritise and we must decide, for the country as a whole, on those investments that will give the best return.
I welcome other sections in the plan dealing with infrastructural developments like road and sewage treatment plants where extra funding is essential. I also welcome the emphasis on education and training. It is more important to create the climate where job creation can flourish. The unskilled need greater education and training, but that alone will not guarantee employment. We have many thousands of highly qualified and trained people already on the live register or they are working in areas well below their skill levels. This underlines the necessity to tackle the structural problems that are smothering our capacity to generate greater employment.
The area of research and development discussed in the plan is also essential because Irish industry must produce something that other people want. There is no point in producing something that people are not interested in buying. It is one area that we have neglected in the past.
It is essential that we concentrate on maintaining existing jobs if we are not going to be able to reach our targets in creating jobs. We must look to this plan as a last chance to alleviate our massive unemployment problems. We are getting a large contribution from the Exchequer, we are seeking a contribution from the private sector and we are getting a generous contribution from Europe. Whether or not we get the original amount, we must accept that it is quite a generous contribution and it is probably our last chance. It is a plan that has to succeed and it deserves the support of all of us.
The Government has a large majority and will be in power for the next three and a half to four years. It must be courageous. It must realise that on its own the National Development Plan is an insufficient response to the unemployment crisis and the Government must be prepared the tackle the other areas that require attention.
This plan is centrally about jobs. It is not a tax plan; that is a matter for budgetary action, although I readily recognise the importance of taxation policy and reform for job creation. The plan is also about investment, which is a crucial feature of job creation, and the challenge, which Senator Honan has said, is how to make the best use of the £20 billion over the next five years in turning that investment into growth and into jobs.
It appears to be £19 billion now.
The private sector is especially important in the plan because an incentive has to be provided to get the £3.7 billion from the private sector.
We have a jobs crisis. It is clearly the most important economic, social and political problem facing the country. The most recent figures, for the end of last month, show that of the total on the live register, 132,000 have been out of work for a year or more and within that 58,000 have been out of work for three years or more. Having said that, by European standards we have done well on the jobs front. I have to qualify that. The number of people at work has been relatively stable in this country compared to the rest of the EC. For example, in the other countries of the EC there has been a 10 per cent drop in manufacturing employment, whereas in that area we have stood still. The difference, of course, arises in relation to our demographic situation. Each year there are 25,000 new entrants to the labour force. Our labour force is rising at a substantially higher rate than that of the rest of the EC. We must clearly achieve higher growth rates than we have been achieving even though they are respectable by international standards. This is where the National Development Plan is relevant. It provides for a major flow of funds which is unlikely to be repeated.
The plan estimates that 200,000 jobs gross will be created during its currency. There will be thousands of short term jobs in construction projects such as roads, railways and ports. The flow of funds will help to maintain existing jobs and to create new jobs. The plan estimates there will be a net gain of between 70,000 and 100,000 jobs during its currency. This is subject to wage competitiveness and to favourable international trading conditions. Some say the estimate of 70,000 to 100,000 net jobs is pessimistic. We can take heart from such a view in that it shows the figures are realistic and achievable.
In the short time available to me I want to focus on local development and the critical problem of the long term unemployed. I welcome the major emphasis in the plan on targeting local development and, in particular, the long term unemployed in local areas. Very valuable experience has been gained in coping with long term unemployment on the ground in areas of acute unemployment. I refer in particular to theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress area partnerships where valuable experience has been gained and considerable potential for more job creation has been identified.
An underlying theme of the plan is to tackle and reduce long term unemployment. The area partnerships have produced good results in a short time and have contributed to the promotion of enterprise and the creation of jobs. A sum of £100 million has been earmarked in the plan to help them continue their valuable work and create more jobs. The county enterprise partnership boards will be allocated £114 million during the currency of the plan and they, in turn, will focus their efforts on local efforts and development.
We will not deal effectively with the problem of long term unemployment by normal conventional means. More than £1,000 million a year is currently paid in unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance. To qualify for these payments unemployed people must prove they are not working; they must prove, in effect, that they are seeking non-existent jobs. They are effectively barred from working. The State is telling them they can have money but they shall not work. The social consequences of this approach are very important. They lead to a loss of dignity and self-worth for unemployed people and leave them with no purpose for which to get up in the morning.
Last year the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment, which I had the honour of chairing, tackled the issue of work for the unemployed on a cross party basis and with the representation of various interested groups. There was agreement by all parties and interest groups, including representatives of the unemployed, that a new approach was required rather than paying vast sums of money to people who had to prove they were not working and were chasing jobs which did not exist. The committee suggested that work should be provided on a voluntary basis to the unemployed, who would receive money for such work instead of the money now being paid in dole. I welcome the fact that the seeds of this approach examined by the joint committee last year have been highlighted by the Conference of Major Religious Superiors.
Why not use public funds at present paid in unemployment benefit in an active and imaginative way to provide worthwhile work on an optional basis for the unemployed in local communities? Such work could be with voluntary agencies and public sector bodies, such as county councils and health boards. The idea is to bring together the talents and the energy of the unemployed and to match them with work which needs to be done but is not done and which would not threaten people in permanent positions at present, for example, county council employees.
In the course of the committee's work we interviewed several county managers who identified a long list of work which urgently needs to be done but which is not being done, such as the maintenance of paths, bridges and parks. In the health area — I am referring to health boards — there is a crying need for more home support and help for those who care for the elderly in their homes. Considering this coldly in economic terms, apart from the dignity afforded to the elderly by being able to stay at home, such backup provided in their homes may prevent them having to use or revert to using hospital services and, thereby, taking up expensive beds.
In the education area there is clearly a need for school secretaries and caretakers. I am not talking about a workfare scheme but a voluntary option where unemployed people would have the opportunity to work if they wished. Some ask whether such people will work. I know from my clinics — and I am sure all Members who conduct clinics also know — that there are thousands of unemployed people who would love to have the opportunity to work and to put behind them the exclusion associated with being unemployed and, more positively, to have dignity restored to them in their families and communities. I am glad this approach of work for the unemployed, as highlighted recently by the Conference of Major Religious Superiors, has been broadly welcomed. It is now necessary to follow this through.
The National Economic and Social Forum, of which I am a member, is the successor to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment. This body is ideally placed to cost, examine and assess the possibilities and the probabilities of work for the unemployed along the lines I have mentioned. However, providing such work may have cost implications in addition to using dole money for this purpose. This needs to be analysed. For example, where will the money come from to purchase extra materials which may be needed? There is also the question of unemployed people being able to retain secondary benefits, such as medical cards, otherwise there would not be an incentive to take up this work. There is an obligation on the NESF, given its representative nature, to resume the work of the former Oireachtas committee and to devise specific proposals for action by the Government. The NESF intends to do this.
Training is of pivotal importance in providing skills for the labour force and updating skills in a period of changing technology. Enhanced skills can help to improve productivity and, therefore, competitiveness. Training is essential to equip the long term unemployed to avail of work opportunities as they arise. We know from experience in attracting overseas industries, which also provide valuable jobs, that an educated, skilled and adaptable labour force is a key ingredient for attracting such jobs.
It is now 1 p.m. and we said we would adjourn at this time. Rather than having to resume for two minutes at 2 p.m., you may continue for two minutes if the House agrees. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I wish to briefly turn to FÁS which has an important training function. FÁS does a good job but there is need for more clarity in their objectives, an evaluation and follow-up of what they do and the value for money that goes with that. It seems that as money has flowed from Brussels one FÁS scheme has been added on top of another. There is a need to scrutinise the entire programme of FÁS and to reduce the number of schemes and get them into a more focused framework.
On the question of training, in-company training, for which employers have responsibility, has an important part to play. Successive studies have shown there is an inadequate investment by employers in in-company training, inadequate not alone to sustain jobs but to improve their competitiveness. Since the lean and difficult years, especially the recessionary conditions of the 1980s, many employers see training as a cost rather than an investment in enhancing skills and improving their competitiveness.
In conclusion, I wish to refer to my constituency of Dún Laoghaire. I am delighted to see that Dún Laoghaire is treated as a strategic corridor port in the plan and will attract funds for the modernisation of the ferry service there. The ferry service and Dún Laoghaire generally are under developed. It is estimated that the ferry service brings in £20 million a year, directly or indirectly, to Dún Laoghaire. It is the premier passenger port in the country and I think the development of the terminal is compatible with the amenity role of the harbour, including preserving access for the public at large to use its facilities. With the investment of Structural Funds for the updating and upgrading of the terminal which will happen during the plan, Dún Laoghaire is an ideal role model for attracting private sector investment as Stena Sealink Line have repeatedly said they want to stay in Dún Laoghaire. If the money is provided through the Structural Funds we will get that private sector response which is so necessary not only in Dún Laoghaire but throughout the country.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the National Development Plan. However, it is farcical to develop a plan which is based on sandy foundations. Until two days ago one would have thought this plan was based on the financial realities of funding from Europe in the Cohesion and Structural Funds. However, over the last few days it emerged that the Government misled the people in relation to funding from Europe. This was further clarified last night and this morning. There will be a shortfall of approximately £1.2 billion on the estimate of approximately £20 billion. When one takes into account the £500 million less which will come from Europe and the amount from the State and private sector, there will be approximately £1.2 billion less for this plan. This is an enormous amount of money and I wonder which of the proposals in this plan will be carried out.
There is a strange history to the funding proposed by the Government. Last December, subsequent to the Edinburgh meeting, the Taoiseach announced that Ireland would get over £8 billion from Europe. Following the devaluation in January another announcement was made by the Government that we could get £8.8 billion. In July it became clear that we would get £7.84 billion. This was stated at the time by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance. Today on the one o'clock news it was clearly reported that we will get almost £7.3 billion, a shortfall of £1.5 billion from what the Government stated in both Houses of the Oireachtas and told the people. This represents gross mismanagement and incompetence; this behaviour is unacceptable. One wonders what has happened to the £1.5 billion. The Government either lost it or manufactured that figure.
The plan is said to cover the period 1994 to 1999 but we know that money allocated for 1993 is included in the funding. Therefore, it is funding for the period 1993 to 1999. This morning the President of the Commission, Mr. Jacques Delors, clearly and unequivocally stated, even after checking with his senior advisers, that at no time did he promise or commit £7.84 billion to the Irish Government.
It becomes clear in the report in today's edition ofThe Irish Times that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern and the Minister of State at the Department of the Finance, Deputy Fitzgerald, were told in Brussels on Friday, 8 October that there was a problem with the £7.8 billion. In the same report the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, states that he was not advised of any difficulties until the Commissioners met last Monday. What type of coherence is in this Government? What kind of communication exists within the Cabinet?
Why did the Minister for Finance and the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, not advise the Tánaiste last Friday week about the difficulties that arose? Why did he have to wait to hear it last Monday? A question also arises in relation to the role of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach, as head of Government, is supposed to coordinate the Government and the Cabinet and his position is seriously in question. A huge problem has arisen and it appears that he has just let it lie there.
The Commissioner, Mr. Padraig Flynn, a former Minister, was supposed to be keeping an eye on this matter for the Government.The Irish Times reports that Mr. Flynn stated he reported to the Taoiseach and warned the Government about the threat to the £7.8 million. Why did the Taoiseach not act? Why did the Tánaiste have to rush to Brussels in a panic last night? Why did the Taoiseach not take constructive and serious action long before now on this fundamental and serious issue? An unprecedented situation has arisen which has huge repercussions for the whole country but, most importantly, for the unemployed and those who depended on the proposed plan for hope for their future in this country.
Many questions must be answered. The Tánaiste said very clearly that his understanding of the agreement with Mr. Delors last July was that Ireland would receive £7.84 billion. This House is owed an explanation. How did he come to that understanding? Is there a record of that understanding in writing? Was an agreement signed by the respective parties, the Commission and the Irish Government, as to the figure? Was a minute of those meetings taken by the Tánaiste, his officials and the Government and have they copies of those minutes? If they have, they should be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
One or other of the parties is misleading the people or telling untruths. The Irish Government or the Commissioner is telling an untruth. It is my belief that the Irish Government has been operating its business with the Commission in a haphazard, unprofessional manner which is totally unacceptable. The Taoiseach should realise that business done between member state Governments and the Commission is not conducted like business at the Ballymahon mart. Equally, the Tánaiste should realise that business between Dublin and Brussels is not conducted as it is at the Killorglin Puck Fair. It appears that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste operated on a nod and wink basis and a drink outside in a bar. It is totally unprofessional and, unfortunately for the Irish people, an absolute disaster.
I hope that when the Government responds this evening, it will be in a position to outline exactly how it came to its erroneous conclusions. Will the Government explain why there is such a lack of communication between the respective partners in Government? There is a major split in the Government. If one is to believe the report inThe Irish Times, the Minister for Finance is not communicating with the Tánaiste. That is a very serious matter and one which should be explained to this House.
There is a shortfall of £1.2 billion on the £20 billion proposed for expenditure in this plan. What proposals in the plan will have to be dropped? There are sections in the plan which deal with many areas covering local development, agriculture, industry and infrastructure. There is a proposal in relation to the various airports — Dublin, Shannon and Cork — where it is proposed to spend £146 million. Will that project have to be shelved?
No, they are going ahead.
Shannon is going ahead.
Yesterday, various Government Ministers stated that the plan would go ahead and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, stated in the House that this established our allocation from Structural Funds and the new Cohesion Fund at approximately £8 billion for the years 1993 to 1999.
However, we heard today that we are getting just under £7.3 billion. He also stated that this plan was to go ahead. If so the Government must tell us where it will get the additional £500 million that was to come from Europe and the additional money that was to come from the national Government and the private sector which amounts to approximately £1.2 billion.
Does the Government propose to introduce extra taxation to implement this plan or will it withdraw a considerable number of its proposals? I do not believe there is any other option. That is the reality and for the Government to proceed to complicate the situation further as they have done over the past 11 months is totally unacceptable to the Irish people.
At one stage, the Government mentioned the figure of £8.8 billion. If one adds the private sector and national funding and subtracts the current figure of £7.3 billion, one is talking in real terms about the Government having lost sight of approximately £3.4 billion in 11 months. Some £1.5 billion of that was lost from Europe.
A Government that can bandy figures around in such an irresponsible manner is not fit to lead this country. It is extremely serious and has engendered real concern in the private sector. The confidence of the private sector in relation to investment has been seriously damaged. The Government must now be aware that difficulties may now be faced that would not have been faced a week ago in relation to the national plan proposal. Something will have to be done to recover that type of——
That is total nonsense and rubbish.
What is nonsense and rubbish?
What the Senator said.
Senator Daly will get a chance of elaborating on this issue. I would love to have some assurance from the Government in relation to this issue. Everything I have said has been said publicly over the last number of days but we will not go down that road now. There is much that Senator Daly and I could discuss but we will keep that for Clare FM.
The Government has done serious damage to confidence and investment on the part of the private sector. It must recognise this and do something to ensure that the damage does not continue. Even more seriously, Ireland's standing in Europe has been dealt a huge blow. In the past our position in Europe and Europe's appreciation of Irish problems was extraordinarily good. Ireland has always had an excellent relationship with the Commission but these badly managed negotiations has undermined its position with our European colleagues and we must recognise that.
The undermining is being done by the Senator's party.
You may as well accept Senator——
Address your remarks through the Chair, Senator Taylor-Quinn.
Senator Magner may as well accept that his Government has done huge damage and it should not try to cover up any more.
The Senator seems to take pleasure from it.
The reality is that serious damage has now been done to Irish credibility and our standing in the European Commission. It is extremely——
What about the credibility of the Commission President? Why do down your own people?
The Senator has one minute left. Please allow her to continue without interruption.
It is extremely important——
If there is a choice some people will always do down the Irish. I can never understand that.
It is important that the Government fully explains what projects in this plan will proceed and what projects will not. If the plan is to proceed the Government should explain how it will secure the £1.2 billion shortfall in funds from Europe. The people deserve an explanation. I hope the Government, at the close of this debate, will take the opportunity of giving us a detailed explanation of the issue.
I am very impressed by the breadth of expertise shown by Senator Taylor-Quinn.
Do not underestimate us, Senator.
I am very impressed. The Senator has been throwing billions around like snuff at a wake.
They are realities, Senator.
Senator Mooney, without interruption, please.
Obviously the Senator has readThe Irish Times.
I have also read the plan.
Senator Mooney should not invite interruptions.
It is difficult in the circumstances to resist. Having looked at the National Development Plan and listened to the criticisms about the alleged loss of money, there does not seem to be any acknowledgement that we are talking about billions. When I was growing up in Drumshanbo, and when Senator Taylor-Quinn was growing up in Kilrush, pounds, shillings and pence were beyond our ken. To talk about billions in such a disparaging way——
And the loss of them in an even more disparaging way.
At least the Fine Gael Party is consistent in its criticism. Over the last six months I listened to and read the most negative comments about this Government's attempts to improve the quality of life for the people in the next seven years. I fail to understand why we are such a nation of begrudgers. I cannot believe that any Government should have had to endure the sustained attack on its negotiations over the last 12 months although it will get £7.3 billion, monopoly money, which will transform this country. However, in the nature of politics I suppose Senator Taylor-Quinn had to do something to cover the fig leaf of Fine Gael Party policy and there was no harm in having a go at us. It is one of the few issues on which her party probably thinks it can be critical.
I will not waste my time responding to what Fine Gael thinks about the National Development Plan. I will be positive and, as a representative from Leitrim, one of Ireland's most disadvantaged counties, I welcome the Government's commitment to inject £19 million into tourism angling. My county's heavy dependence on angling tourism to support the local economy cannot be overstated. There are few areas of the country that boast of such a glittering array of fishing lakes and rivers; Lough Allen, the first lake on the Shannon, is the jewel in the crown.
Since the early 1950s when angling tourism was first identified in Leitrim and the adjoining portions of Roscommon, Cavan and Fermanagh, angling clubs and associations raised the consciousness of successive governments to the vast potential of angling tourism and its place as a major net contributor to the economy. While there have been many improvements in access and facilities, progress generally has been painfully slow due to lack of finance and properly defined structural development. In recent years the various fisheries boards played a major role in association with local angling clubs and development organisations in identifying and giving priority to lakes and rivers in urgent need of proper access and facilities. Indeed, I pay tribute to the dedicated officers and officials of the various fishing boards who operate within my county and with whom I am in regular contact, especially Shannon Regional Fisheries and the Northern Regional Fisheries Board.
The recognition by the Government in the National Development Plan of angling tourism with the promise of £19 million — I have serious doubts that Senator Taylor-Quinn's allegations will carry any weight and I believe that the promised £19 million will be there — is much needed investment and should, if properly utilised, transform the coarse fishing industry. In this regard I await with interest the detailed plans of the Minister for the Marine and especially the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine, Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan, who I understand is charged with implementing this aspect of the plan. I look forward to seeing what money will be expended under the National Development Plan in the areas I have mentioned.
The fisheries boards, especially Shannon Regional Fisheries in my area, and local angling interests, were galvanised into action over the summer months in anticipation of funding becoming available under the Cohesion and Structural Funds. A development plan for the north Shannon area with the Lough Allen basin as the centrepiece has been submitted to Shannon Regional Fisheries and Bord Fáilte who will ultimately decide the level of funding and the priority to be afforded to the various proposals contained in the submission. Although I appreciate that there has to be fine tuning on the plan for the development of angling tourism, I appeal to the Minister and the Government to ensure that the fisheries boards receive funding commensurate with the detailed proposals worked out between the board and the various fishing and angling organisations.
While not wishing to exaggerate the scale of the problem in angling areas such as County Leitrim, the excellent work of recent years carried out by voluntary organisations, local angling clubs, bed and breakfast operators and Bord Fáilte at regional level will be seriously undermined unless a development plan is put into operation as quickly as possible. There has already been sporadic criticism by returning British anglers who have traditionally been the mainstay of the angling tourism industry in my part of the country. This criticism has been directed at what they see as the appalling lack of access to and facilities at some of our best fishing lakes. Criticism of this nature, which sadly in many cases is justified, will have an adverse affect on the best marketing strategy of this country and will blunt our competitive edge to a serious degree unless it is addressed.
I am aware that cross channel anglers and others from continental Europe have indicated to their colleagues in the Irish coarse fishing angling industry that, unless certain fishing lakes and rivers are upgraded and improved, they will not only bypass this country in future but discourage others from visiting us. It is no longer acceptable that the angling tourist should be expected to tolerate poor access and lack of development at lakes and rivers to pursue their hobby. In today's competitive world there are several other options for the coarse fishing angler to pursue in other countries where facilities have been upgraded in recent years.
The Minister will be aware in relation to other aspects of the National Development Plan that the question of overlapping between Departments has already been raised. The Government has promised to ensure that there will be a smooth and efficient processing of applications for funding as the money comes on stream. In that context I ask the Government to ensure that the policies pursued by the various fishing boards are at one with each other. I can quote one example.
In my discussions with the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, which would include most of the area of mid County-Leitrim and north County Roscommon where I reside and in which I would have a personal interest, it has been confirmed that the board seeks funding not only for the provision of onshore facilities but for proper access, landscaping and other important aspects of angling tourism to make the visit of the angler as comfortable and as pleasant as possible. However, in my discussions with the Northern Regional Fisheries Board they have informed me that they expect the local authorities to provide access on new roads or existing roads that require urgent maintenance while the board will concern itself only with funding onshore facilities.
Surely there should be an integrated approach to this problem of poor access and facilities. It is not in the long term interests of the angling tourism industry that there should be a difference of policy in the way funds are expended, funds which are, after all, seeking a common aim. It is not acceptable that any fisheries board should require the local authority to provide the necessary funding for road access on properties which, in many cases, do not belong to the local authority and which are not designated as having county road status. Many local authorities, while they would in theory be willing and anxious to encourage orderly development of angling tourism, would baulk at the prospect of having to provide scarce resources for non-county roads when there is such a clamour to provide basic maintenance for major county roads and regional roads in their jurisdiction.
Like many of my colleagues in the past, I ask the Government to look seriously at providing grant aid for bed and breakfast and small hotel operators in peripheral regions which are naturally severely disadvantaged due to poor infrastructure and low population density. I am sure the Minister of State, following her nationwide travels over the last nine months which have proven instructive for her and have had a beneficial input into the development plan, would recognise that even within Ireland, which is a peripheral region, serious imbalances exist at regional level which need to be addressed.
I am not adopting a béal bocht attitude but if the west and especially regions such as my own — and I accept there are problems in other parts of the country not least in Dublin city - are to enjoy to the full the undoubted benefit that would flow from the injection of money into the Irish economy on the scale as outlined in the National Development Plan, they cannot do so on their own. It has been suggested in some quarters, and I would endorse the view, that the Government should give serious consideration to a pilot scheme, preferably in County Leitrim, for a rural renewal scheme along similar lines to the successful urban renewal scheme which has been in operation for the last few years.
The Government has taken the initiative in the jobs area by setting up pilot schemes in various parts of the country to, as it were, test the wind on whether such schemes do provide jobs. I heard the Minister of State on radio in the last few days outlining her plans and ideas in this regard. While these schemes and the philosophy behind them is to break the unemployment log-jam in large urban areas where there is, I accept, a serious problem, I hope that the philosophy would extend to areas of small and declining population as well as those with poor infrastructure.
It is now evident that unless some attractive tax breaks or financial incentives are provided for potential entrepreneurs wishing to set up business in this country counties such as Leitrim and regions such as the west and north-west will always lose out to the more affluent and highly developed eastern and southern parts of the country, notwithstanding the serious unemployment problems those regions have.
It is not my intention to deflate the ambitions of this Government in its genuine attempts to improve the quality of life for all and to provide jobs during the lifetime of this plan. However, it would be remiss of me if I were not once again, like many of my contemporaries, to point out that a serious attempt must be made to arrest the economic and population decline in rural areas.
The demands on the resources of the Government are great but there is an air of optimism, hope and confidence in my part of the country, despite the economic reality in which most of our people live with split families, emigration and little chance of productive employment. The confidence is still there.
That golden thread of optimism is best exemplified by the small community of Keadue, County Roscommon, which are battling against the most incredible odds, including the closure of the coal mining industry and the loss of over 300 jobs, the closure of the Lough Allen power station and the loss of 60 jobs. The people of Keadue and surrounding areas have risen above their troubles and defined a future for themselves in which they are saying, like many other communities of its size and with similar difficulties, "we are an industrious people, we are an enterprising people, we are a proud people who wish to retain our way of life. Give us the tools and let us get on with the job." This cry from the heart, this stubbornness to survive must be echoed at Government level and I have every confidence that, given the philosophy behind this National Development Plan, the Government will not be found wanting in this regard.
Reading this plan it seemed to me that it is aimed at at least two targets or constituencies: one is Brussels and we have presumably to put something on paper that finds favour with the EC bureaucracy. On that score alone I will not inflict on the House multiple examples of what I can only call the use of alternative English in this document which is written in a form of "bureaucratese" which makes it by and large a pain rather than a pleasure to read on stylistic grounds. There are one or two emphases in it that I will come back to and hope that those who write these things in future will try to avoid employing terminology of the type.
Brussels looks for integrated programmes, "integrated" is now one of the key in-words in terms of anything that is put on paper from any Government Department. The principle of integration is an admirable one but the writers of this document have felt obliged to insert "integrated" in virtually every sentence where they are at a loss to explain what they are talking about. I understand that but I hope we do not cod ourselves because it is important that we remain clear in our own minds what we are doing for ourselves as distinct from what we are doing for Brussels.
One of the great difficulties of this plan — which I welcome in general terms — is that so many agencies and Departments are involved that integration in practice becomes difficult to implement. Integration is itself an expertise which has to be acquired by learning. We have little experience of integrated thinking or integrated planning about virtually anything. We are improving and learning but in terms of agencies perhaps only Shannon Development has some experience on the ground of thinking consistently in integrated terms. Anyone who is familiar with the functioning of State bodies at local level knows that their thinking revolves around reporting to Dublin and getting orders back from headquarters. There is much more contact in a particular area with headquarters than there is co-ordination between these agencies and State-sponsored bodies locally. It is as if a series of parallel tracks are made in terms of decision making with the ultimate consequences for the region involved not specifically taken care of by anybody.
I remember during the Cork 800 some years ago that when the directors at local level of those agencies got around the table they were amazed in many cases to find out what the others were doing because that was not the way decision making was carried out in their organisations. I appreciate that there have to be relationships at local and national level, between the regional authority and the national authority, but how we blend them with cross relationships within regions seems to be one of our main challenges. Therefore, while I welcome the emphasis on integration I am sceptical about our capacity to deliver in the short term in anything like an optimum way.
Integrating is a learning process. When we look on page 201 at the main implementing bodies, appendix 3 under "Industry", we find there are four main Government Departments involved, at least 11 other named bodies, all of them State agencies, and many third level education institutes. The challenge of pursuing integrated policies under any single heading here seems to be formidable. I regret, incidentally, in talking of implementing bodies that there is very little reference to voluntary bodies or community associations, with some qualifications — to which I will return. The implementing bodies are overwhelmingly, State agencies which, up to a point, they have to be. I wonder if the plan, in a certain respect, is not a plan for agencies, which is then translated into how these can reconcile agency requirements with overall national requirements.
To qualify what I said about voluntary bodies, the most heartening feature of the plan is the emphasis on area development, which includes provision for community bodies of various types, which is to be warmly welcomed. In discussions in this Chamber on the issue, the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, indicated her support for that concept and I warmly congratulate her on that emphasis in the plan. If it works in practice, as I hope it will, it is an encouraging development. If nothing else comes from this plan — and the sceptic might say it is highly unlikely anything else will come from the plan — it will be worthwhile on that score alone.
However, there is the problem that arises in a sense of fostering a dependency culture with the objective of developing an enterprise culture. We are nowadays all committed to the idea of enterprise culture, which, if we knew precisely what it meant, would probably be an admirable idea. To achieve such a culture, we become even more dependent on innumerable State agencies to develop enterprise in those who are dependent on them. That is not to be decried because some such relationship is necessary. However, it is a delicate relationship and requires much thought, some of which has yet to be done because this programme had to be put together at high speed. The potential is here but putting a plan on paper will not realise it.
I am puzzled — I freely admit that this reveals my ignorance — by how figures for individual years are put together. It is difficult enough to plan for next week in some respects so when one sees specific figures one wonders what clairvoyance the planners have to forecast circumstances and conditions — even in an ideal world — in 1999. In the summaries of the industry and agriculture chapters, on pages 51 and 62 respectively, total programme expenditure in both those areas is smaller in 1996 than in 1995. It is increased slightly in 1997. Why is 1996 such a disadvantaged year? Given what one expects or might expect to be the electoral position in that year, it is singularly implausible that 1996 will see a cutback in expenditure programmes which will be restored in the bright new dawn of 1997.
I do not wish to sound as cynical as I feel, I simply wish to know how the annual figures are arrived at on an annual basis. There does not seem to be a sequential coherence derived from an apparent programme as opposed to the general principles. I will not dwell on this although if we were discussing this properly we should examine figures for individual years and ask how they were arrived at. For instance, under industry there is a figure for technical assistance which, admittedly, gets a miserable £1 million for the five years 1994-1998 and then vanishes in 1999.
That is a valuation.
I thank the Minister. Presumably, there will be evaluation of the total outcome but I am grateful for the clarification. If there was more such clarification attached to the tables, even in footnotes, we could see how the drafters of the plan arrived at various figures. Not everyone is a passionate devourer of footnotes but those of us who have largely spent our lives there might welcome them. There are droppings occasionally, which I am sure are the result of careful foresight but they are not immediately clear to the general reader.
I welcome much of the chapter on education. It is good to see the contribution to in-service training which has been the Cinderella of educational programmes for many years and has been regularly cut when the Department of Education had to make savings. One hopes in-service training will no longer bear the brunt of cuts.
If we are as committed to creating an enterprise culture and an ethos for change, as we purport to be, the question of who inculcates the ethos arises. Will the teachers charged with inculcating this ethos become imbued with it? How can we pump 1.2 million bodies through training and education systems if a large number of teachers do not have adequate access to the enterprise culture? There are programmes in the plan for training, mainly in the FÁS area but the capacity for in-built change in the education system, meaning in-service training, must not suffer if cuts become necessary.
I am strongly committed to technological progress and the achievement of technical and technological excellence in the education system. Despite some good reports, we are a long way from knowing how best to achieve that. This still requires to be thought through and teased out to a far greater extent than is the case at present, even after education forums and so on.
If one tended to be sceptical, sections of the plan would provide one with raw material for adopting a detached view towards some components of the programme. In the education chapter, pages 84 and 85, there is a paragraph under the FÁS programme — and I doff my cap to whoever wrote it —"Industry Training for the Unemployed". The Minister may not be able to shed light on this but it is one way of presenting a case:
Industry Training for the Unemployed is the main occupational skills training programme provided by FÁS. The programme builds on the experience of the Specific Skills Training programme. Placement from Specific Skills Training (six months after completion of training) was 70 per cent in 1991.
This type of training is consistently in demand from Irish employers, as evidenced by the high placement rates. [Therefore 70 per cent is regarded as a high placement rate. That presumably means 30 per cent do not get placed. One might regard that as a subjective concept of what constitutes "high".] In many cases, trainees secure employment in the productive sector...
Will the Minister enlighten us as to what the FÁS idea of the "unproductive" sector is?
I would never say the universities were unproductive.
I doubt that, given the constraints on recruitment in the university sector. The paragraph goes on:
...a very high proportion of those placed secure employment related to the skills learned on the SST course. [I do not know what a very high proportion is in relation to a high proportion.] The programme has a significant effect on unemployment [we are not told what a significant effect is] and goes some way towards promoting greater social equity and enhancing the ability of participants to compete with other labour market entrants.
Unless the number of jobs increases, the competitive improvement in FÁS trainees will keep other labour market entrants out of those particular jobs. They then, presumably, will go to FÁS to take advantage of this course next time around. I do not decry that paragraph, I know the difficulties faced by those drafting paragraphs to fill space at certain times. Brussels must have a minimum word limit on documents, given the degree of repetition one finds here. I would like clarification of what is behind those generalised statements.
A rabbit programme is referred to in the plan. Rabbits are now part of the livestock industry. What are the targets by 1999 in regard to rabbit numbers? Perhaps the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy FitzGerald, could enlighten us.
There is potential for significant transformation but this will not happen unless the commitment to change expressed here is built into business, agriculture, Government Departments and indeed the Oireachtas. I hope the Government achieves its objectives, but this depends on the use we make of the £7.3 billion or £7.8 billion.
I welcome the Minister to the House and I am glad of this opportunity to speak on the National Development Plan. Given the quality of the plan, I am confident we will get a top of the range outline in the statement from the EC Commission today, namely, that 9.3 billion ECUs or £7.84 billion will be made available. We received help from Europe in the past and we will get help until 1999.
Some people give the impression that we are begging from Europe, that we are looking for money to which we are not entitled. Our contribution to Europe has been significant for many years. How many young people, educated and trained at the expense of the taxpayer, have gone abroad for employment? Education and training has not been provided by these countries and we are making a big contribution in this regard. Unfortunately, many of these people have settled abroad and give their skills, training and education to those countries. What we are getting from Europe may be repayment for this.
I refer to the preparation of the National Development Plan. Some years ago the subregional review bodies were set up. Local groups submitted plans or shopping lists which were examined and then submitted from the subregion to the full development plan. Credit is due to those involved in the framing of the plan and to the Minister of State, Deputy FitzGerald, for the work she did in presenting and compiling the plan.
I hope the Leas-Chathaoirleach will give me leeway to mention my area in the south west. I would like to see money from the plan filter its way down to remote parts of the country. In a constituency like Cork South West and other constituencies along the seaboard, people who travel to Dublin and Rosslare talk about the vast amount of money spent on roads, flyovers, etc. We need roads, motorways and flyovers to export and to have proper communications. However, remote peripheral areas must get a share from the National Development Plan as, often, large projects overshadow small ones.
It is important for the south west to develop its fishing industry. Ports like Castletownbere, Kinsale, Union Hall, etc., need money from the National Development Plan. Such ports are the basis of our fishing and tourist industries which will play an important role in peripheral areas. We need money to build roads to these ports so that fish can be transported to processing plants and the finished product transported elsewhere. Tourism will play a major part in the economy in the south. I am glad that money will be spent on Cork airport, it will bring in tourists and business people from abroad and will loosen up the transport system.
Under the section of the plan dealing with transport, I am glad regional and county roads will get money. Despite the many accessible areas, we need money for regional and county roads so that farmers can transport their products, to get tourists to guest houses and fishermen to ports. Agriculture will benefit from the National Development Plan. Rural development is important because many people have left rural areas to work abroad and in the cities. Rural areas are bereft of social life and often have a dour appearance in winter. Rural development is needed in such areas.
Training and education are essential for the people. I am glad many primary and post-primary schools will get money under the plan. I refer to programmes like the VTOS. This important scheme is for those who have been unemployed for some time and who need extra training. Programmes for the disabled and youth training are of importance to young people in regard to employment.
The county enterprise partnership boards are in place and will be important in creating employment in small projects which have been lost. Industry must be promoted by the plan. The money which will be spent on training and the various bodies involved in promoting industry will create a better industrial future and there will be an increase in the number of jobs in that area.
Often those living in Dublin and other cities do not understand the day to day life of those living in disadvantaged areas. People frequently visit disadvantaged areas during summer months — if we get summer weather. However, during the winter months one sees the need for rural development. When young people leave one area to go to another in search of employment, many of the social, entertainment and sports facilities are uneconomic to maintain and subsequently close. Rural development must include enjoyment as well as employment. We have an opportunity as we spend this money under the National Development Plan to see to this and to ensure that people in those areas can see projects financed by the national plan used to the betterment of the area in which they live.
On the fishing sector, protection off our coasts from people from other nations who are taking their unfair share is now necessary as, over the years, fishing stocks in places like the North Sea were greatly depleted because of over fishing and pollution. If proper schemes are not organised to protect our coastal waters, the Celtic Sea will suffer like the North Sea. It is important to ensure that under the National Development Plan our fisheries are protected and that fishermen will get proper reward for their work.
This is a very important discussion in regard to the National Development Plan. The programme we are discussing refers to a sum of £7.84 billion. We now know that this figure is £7.2 billion, a drop of approximately £600 million pounds. Most people find it difficult to contemplate those amounts because of the vast sums of money involved. The loss of over £600 million is severe and will, regrettably, have a detrimental impact on the plan. Everybody in this House and in the lower House shares a sense of regret over the loss of money involved. Many projects which would have gone ahead will not now proceed.
I am concerned that over the last three days, our credibility as a nation has taken a nose-dive. Because of the monumental error the Government made in these negotiations we as a nation have suffered. I say that with a deep sense of regret. The charges and counter charges are serious. It is alleged that some Ministers were aware of what was happening and that others asked that the plan be put back for a week or a fortnight. The contradictions are even more serious. In any discussions I may agree or disagree with the Minister, but it is essential that normal courtesies are observed and that whatever I am saying is put in proper parliamentary language. We can have a very serious disagreement, but at all stages I must respect the Minister's views and if she makes a mistake then I should have the good grace to at least be courteous. There should be no sense of rubbing it in, no sense that I would be happy to see her making a mistake. We must respect one another. I regret that in this case claims have been made that people have told lies. That is harmful and will cause us damage in the long term.
The warning signs were there and I am surprised that Commissioner Flynn did not recognise them. Commissioner Millan made it quite plain. He had the responsibility and he said the £8 billion was not there. The indications he gave were not accepted although they should have been. When he walked out of that meeting our negotiators should have known that the amount of money they were looking for was not there. This is a serious matter. In all my time in politics, nearly a quarter of a century, I have never seen negotiations so mishandled. I say that with a deep sense of regret, because I am Irish. I am proud of my country and I want Ireland to maintain the dignity and standing it has held, not alone in Europe but throughout the length and breadth of the world. Our approach to negotiations was always highly regarded. We had skills in diplomacy, negotiation and debate which were on a par with the best in the world. In this instance that has not been the case. The Government is putting huge emphasis on public relations although I do not consider the Minister present to be involved in this. It is time to forget about public relations and get down to hard work. Only through effort and time can we achieve our objectives. Regardless of what took place, we need to start mending our fences and get our act together for the future. I hope that what has taken place in this instance never occurs again.
I wish to discuss a number of factors in regard to the plan. First, in regard to the proposals regarding job creation, we have to work with all our might and main to ensure that we are not speaking of short term jobs but of long term jobs. A huge number of jobs will be involved in the earlier stages, road building, hospital building, development of intercity links, the DART and so on. We need to obtain — and then retain — long term sustainable jobs.
Figures in regard to job losses suggest that insufficient efforts are being made to maintain jobs. For instance, in Offaly we always had a very sizeable shoe industry. Recently our last remaining shoe factory was closed. I was in touch with the Industrial Development Authority, it seemed to accept the fact that we will lose out in the manufacturing of shoes, clothing and textiles and that we should be moving into other areas.
We should nail our colours to the mast and make sure that such jobs, which have been part of this country for decades, are retained. Outside farming it is estimated that from 100,000 to 130,000 jobs will be lost over the lifetime of the plan, I am quoting from aSunday Tribune article by Paul Tansey. We must be careful to secure existing jobs. In the last budget a 1 per cent income levy was introduced which was simply a tax on workers. In addition, VAT was increased from 16 per cent to 21 per cent. In his budget speech, the Minister for Finance said:
Budgetary circumstances dictate that this year the national standard rate must remain at 21 per cent. A range of 16 per cent-rated activities will be increased from 1 March. These include telecommunication services, adult clothing and footwear.
In a debate on the budget in this House, I listed the number of job losses since 1989, which totalled about 3,000. The imposition of an increased VAT rate on clothes means that many clothing factories are in trouble. In such areas we are not allowing local companies to operate competitively because of the 21 per cent VAT rate. The clothing industry currently employs 16,000 people but there is a danger that the new level of VAT will cause job losses. I ask the Minister of State to discuss with her Cabinet colleagues its impact on existing jobs. It is essential to create jobs but we must remember that every job lost will cause further tax increases because someone has to pay to keep a unemployed person on the live register.
Will the Minister of State give details of the proposed peat-fired power station? Perhaps she could outline its cost structure because I would like to know from where the funding will come. As Bord na Móna and the ESB are in serious financial difficulty I would like to know what proportion of the project's cost will come from Europe. I would also like to know the number of jobs that will be created at this station. In my area there are still up to 40 years' bog reserves and, therefore, I am anxious to know the future prospect for the existing peat-fired generating stations at Shannonbridge, Ferbane and Rhode. The latter station was only officially opened recently. The plan mentions that moneys will be made available to help existing stations and it is essential that those stations should be modernised. I visit them on a fairly regular basis and the conditions under which many of the staff are employed are difficult and unsatisfactory. A considerable amount of money needs to be spent on each of those stations which are of enormous benefit to the midlands. I hope that the new peat-fired station will not affect any jobs in the existing stations, and that none of them will be closed. I would like an assurance from the Minister of State on that matter.
The number of people expected to leave the agriculture sector is very worrying. The proposed farm retirement scheme will be of benefit, the sooner it is in place the better. It is important because it will encourage people to hand over their farms, thus encouraging younger people to get involved in farming. It is essential that moneys are made available for that. Over the coming decades farming will require highly intelligent, dedicated and qualified people to work in it because it has become such a difficult job. We should be making an effort to ensure that jobs are retained and expanded in that sector, rather than taking the view that there will be considerable job losses, because it can be highly intensive in terms of job creation.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. This is a special occasion because it is the first time, and may be the last time, that we will see such a massive amount of money being spent. Regardless of the jibes from the Opposition about the money from Europe, whether the figure is £7.3 billion or £7.8 billion we should welcome it rather than harp on about what we did not get. I was in Germany recently, their attitude towards the Irish is one of people who come with cap in hand and a begging bowl looking for moneys. They have a bad enough impression of us without our raking it up as happened over the last few days. I listened to Tommie Gorman interviewing Jacques Delors this morning——
It was an extraordinary interview.
——and if the Europeans were watching it they would have a very bad impression of us. We should be delighted with what we got. I am sorry we did not get more but let us use what we have got. I welcome the £20 billion that is to be spent in the national plan from 1993 to 1999. Let us hope that these public, private and EC funds will be used to generate investment in the economy to create jobs. At the end of the day this Government will rise or fall depending on how it deals with unemployment. The country has 300,000 people out of work and that is what we should be channelling our efforts into instead of trying to score cheap political points, which is disgraceful. In the eyes of the Europeans it will not do us any good.
I welcome the emphasis on jobs and training. Sustainable jobs can be created in such areas as tourism, industry and fishing, particularly in the county from which I come. I hope the moneys will be spent wisely. I come from a Border region and I note that £2.1 billion is to be spent in the Border regions. It is good to see that money is being spent on the Donegal town bypass, a project badly needed. Bypasses are also needed in places like Ballybofey and Bundoran to keep private and commercial traffic flowing.
However, I was disappointed to note that in the plan, which I welcome, there was no mention of projects for Donegal north-east, which concerns me as I come from that area. An abiding memory is coming to Dublin last Tuesday afternoon and while driving on the primary road from Letterkenny to Lifford meeting a lady carrying two buckets of water. This was six miles from Letterkenny, a highly concentrated industrial area and one of the fastest growing towns in Europe. The people in the area of Manorcunningham/ St. Johnston have been promised running water for 29 years and it has still not materialised. This is the kind of work I want to see included in the plan, yet there is no mention of it in the programme. I understand that the sub-regional group included it in its programme, that it is number 6 or number 7, but it will have to be moved up as the job should have been undertaken. A sum of approximately £5 million is required to bring water to the homes of perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 people and I was annoyed that it was not addressed.
Another matter not addressed is Greencastle pier. I hope that moneys will be given to make this pier safer for the fishermen operating from it because the ports serving the fishing area in Donegal, Killybegs, Burtonport or Greencastle, have great potential to create jobs. The unfortunate aspect of Greencastle pier is that millions of pounds was spent on a job badly done and for which there was no accountability. The pier has been left in such a way that boats are damaged on a regular basis, unless money is provided for a breakwater at the pier there will be massive compensation claims from fishermen using it in future. In addition Rathmullen pier should also be included in the plan but there is no mention of it despite the fact that it is one of the deepest deep sea ports in Europe and that Donegal County Council give it priority in its plans for piers and ports.
I welcome the moneys allocated to agriculture, amounting, I understand, to 13 per cent of the funds from 1994 to 1999. It was not all that the farmers were seeking, however, I suppose the farmers always look for plenty and they appear to do quite well. They should be happy with the 13 per cent.
As I mentioned earlier, the allocation to education and training is welcome. We have a very young population which we should try to keep at home, try to keep people on the land. I welcome anything that can be done to develop agriculture to stop the decline in rural communities, especially into the major population centres.
The regional subcommittees considered tourism. The north west is a major tourist area but has been badly neglected over the years. I condemned Bord Fáilte on a number of occasion for the lack of funding that goes into areas like Donegal. I note there is no mention of the roads in Inishowen or in places like Fanad which have tremendous potential for tourism. The north west is just as nice as Cork and Kerry and I am sure that if the roads were improved more people would come to see it.
I know that there are no specifics. However, after the pleas I made I am sure that the Minister will include some of these projects when there is investment of money in those areas. Will the Minister take these projects into consideration, especially the fishing project, because there is major room for improvements and job creation in those areas? Will she consider the report of the sub-regional group and include the project?
I welcome the plan. I was saddened to hear some of the condemnations made over the last two days but I hope it proceeds accordingly.
I welcome the plan. President Delors said it is a good plan and I am far too modest to say that it is not.
However, some aspects are confusing, Senator Lee mentioned some of these earlier. The first and main aspect is the number of implementing bodies. There will be a large amount of overlap in this area, in fact I began to wonder who was left out. I cannot find the Leader projects anywhere. Are they in the plan?
They are called community initiatives and they will be explained later.
I thank the Minister. Clarification is always needed in regard to these matters. I knew that they would be in the plan somewhere. It will be a serious task to try to watch that there will not be a tremendous overlap in what each group is doing. Many agencies often work in parallel and it is essential that someone ensures that there is liaison between them, otherwise there could an enormous overlap of effort. Even in quite specific areas, such as those to combat unemployment, especially where there are areas of deprivation and long term unemployment, there appears to be many different programmes. For example, there is a local development programme, a community employment development programme, social employment schemes and funding for training under FÁS, CERT, the vocational education committees, the regional technical colleges, and the universities. They all seem to be involved in every area and are not being targeted at specific areas, which worries me.
Many long term unemployed people want to go on these schemes. I have never subscribed to the notion that people do not want to get jobs, rather they are desperate to secure them. However, two issues will have to be settled before people will join the schemes. Fringe benefits were a serious problem in regard to the social employment schemes. As far as I recall the uptake for these schemes was very poor. This is not theoretical, it is practical, because I work with people who have medical cards and various other fringe benefits which are desperately important to them. They are terrified of getting on a social employment scheme, or whatever the new schemes will be called, and losing these benefits. Indeed in many of the enterprise schemes, participants lose the benefits if they go off the unemployment register to participate in such schemes and may have great difficulty getting back on the unemployment register. We are asking people to risk an enormous amount socially by not being more generous in saying that we will be sure that these benefits are available to them if they avail of the schemes. The Minister will have to clarify this immediately as the position is serious.
Another serious issue, and I was delighted that the plan mentioned gender proofing so often, is the situation regarding child care facilities. I realise that these facilities are expensive; however, they give employment and it is impossible for many women who are not employed, for example lone parents, to go on training schemes unless they can get their child looked after. I am aware that matters improved when the direction was made that lone parents could go on FÁS training schemes. It will be recalled that they used to have to be on the unemployment register. However, we will have to go the extra mile and try to get the child care facilities set up so that the large number of unemployed women — indeed I heard recently that if all those women who are available for employment went on the live register there would be another 100,000 on it — get into schemes. I know I am preaching to the converted when I address the Minister on this issue.
I want to consider some areas in which I anticipate conflicts arising. They are all in different parts of the plan which makes it rather difficult. In one area the plan promotes fishing and agriculture, which I am delighted to note, and in another area the plan deals with angling and the promotion of the tourism industry. This is important and several Senators referred to it. However, quite often there can be a conflict of interest between these two areas and such areas where conflicts of interest arise will have to be carefully addressed.
I often wonder if the monitoring of our aquaculture industry is careful enough. Poor husbandry may be one of the problems contributing to the demise of our sea trout. While promoting one area and trying to promote another, time must be spent monitoring what is happening in each of them to ensure that we get value for the money invested in both. A great deal of environmental improvement is needed for both those industries and this was not stressed enough. The sewerage schemes, for example, are to be improved under the cohesion plans. Will the cohesion plans be in place at the same time as the Structural Funds?
They are embedded in it.
I understand. Like Senator Lee I need the footnotes. It is a relief to know that, because if the plans for sewerage schemes are not implemented there is no point in implementing the angling plans. There is much talk about industrial and agricultural pollution but pollution from sewage is probably our worst problem. It is particularly important for any of our fishing industries which are near the shore as about 70 per cent of the population lives around the coast. I am glad that sewerage works will be coordinated in the plan.
Returning to the question of the environment, there is a section dealing with hazardous waste which provides for the development of better facilities for the disposal of such waste and for greater efforts at recycling. Both of these are well worthwhile. However, I did not see anything in the plan about toxic waste disposal and we will have to do something about this soon. Perhaps I did not understand part of it but toxic waste is more than hazardous and must be dealt with urgently. The Structural Funds could be used for this purpose.
I am pleased with other elements of the plan, such as its provisions on education. I am happy that so much effort will be put into basic education, we must make a huge effort in that area as those with the least education are most likely to be unemployed. I am glad to see the emphasis on in service training and retraining. Senator Quinn talked about changing technology, one can barely keep up with it as it changes so fast at present, which is sad. For example, a patient of mine explained recently that he had had a good job as a mechanic for years. Having been unemployed for a while he wants to return to work. However, as there has been considerable change in engine technology he needs a retraining course but would have to pay for it before he could again find employment. Retraining and in-training schemes are extremely important in keeping up with technology.
The emphasis on research and development — a subject I have spoken on in this House many times — is vital. I have previously expressed disappointment that the Culliton report seemed to suggest we could not be in the first league. It is not a question of not being in the first league, we must be in the first league, otherwise nobody will give us access to their research and development. One of our great resources is the large number of well trained and educated people who are constantly in the forefront of research and development and these have to be encouraged. We remember how important this was with Digital when it kept its research and development operations here.
The plan aims to improve freight facilities at Shannon Airport. We should take this area more seriously. I realise that road development is worthwhile and, like Senator Quinn, I think it should proceed. I am also happy that so much is to be spent on the rail network because some lines are a disgrace, for example, those to Sligo and Westport. I have told the story in this House about the time I was returning from Sligo when I had to board a connecting train at Portarlington. The train was going so slowly that I asked the ticket collector if he thought we would arrive in Portarlington in time to board the Cork train there. He replied: "Indeed we will, we have a good stiff breeze behind us." However, we need more than a good stiff breeze and I am happy to see money being spent on railways.
Money invested in ports will be well spent. Savings could be made in areas where people do not want ports expanded. I do not know if Drogheda is one of the ports which the plan proposes to develop but savings could be made in areas where people do not want developments. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Tánaiste. I always thought thatfourchette was the French for fork but never realised it was the French for £0.5 billion. While we are waiting for these developments an enormous amount of freight, particularly agricultural produce, could be sent to Europe through Shannon. Dr. Tony Ryan suggested this and I am sure he would not have done so without good back-up information. The plan is inspiring in places and it must be very disappointing not to receive all the anticipated funding. However, it means we will have to think more carefully about how every penny is spent.
With the permission of the House I wish to share three minutes of my time with Senator Dan Kiely who has waited patiently to contribute.
You have nine minutes.
Thank you, we will share that time. I commend the last and positive contribution. I have been extraordinarily disappointed in the last two days with the national hand wringing in relation to this issue. Every time there is a controversy involving an Irish politician, diplomat or Minister for Foreign Affairs and a foreigner, such as Jacques Delors, the automatic assumption in Ireland is that the Irish person in question must be wrong.
I recommend that Members of the House, particularly Members of the Opposition in both Houses and, not least, some members of the media — I am thinking specifically of the media to whom we all pay a compulsory tax—look carefully at the history of EC funding for projects in this country. I was an official in the Department of Finance from 1973 to 1977, the period of our early membership of the EC. At that stage the concept was that somehow or other we would do badly, that we did not have the muscle, diplomatic expertise or public servants who could go to Brussels and achieve positive results. The reality is that on every occasion when money has been allocated by Brussels to this country we have done well, remarkably better than we should have done proportionately.
I remind Members that in the late 1980s it was suggested that our allocation from the Social Funds should be 3 per cent but, because of the expertise of a whole series of politicians and public servants, we were allocated 13 per cent of those funds. This was not a result, as one or two Members said, of going to Brussels with a begging bowl, it was our entitlement. We signed the Treaty of Rome, which provides, among other things, for a contribution from the richer to the poorer states in recognition of the fact that Europe, which is a huge consumer group, has an obligation to assist the periphery. The centre of Europe, the golden triangle, must make a contribution towards the periphery in the same way as we on the more urbanised east coast have a contribution to make to our fellow citizens in other parts of this country.
I recommend that people read precisley what Jacques Delors said to Mr. Gorman in that extraordinary interview on RTÉ yesterday morning. I have a transcript of it here. I will not read the full transcript. Mr. Delors has many fine qualities, fluent English is not one of them but I admit that he is more fluent in English than I am in French. He was at great pains — I met him once or twice — to point out that this was an indicative figure. Why all the hand wringing? I listened to the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance today and I am convinced that in three years' time we will have exceeded the £7.8 billion figure.
I would remind Members — and this could be a little embarrassing for some — of what was said in both Houses in the last few months about the level of funding we would get. Deputy De Rossa was quoted on 16 December in the national media as saying: "We are talking in terms of a maximum figure of between £6 billion and £7 billion over seven years". He was wrong, even at the worst estimates we will get £7.2 billion in the shorter period. In the Official Report of 23 October 1992, he spoke of the likelihood that the £6 billion would not materialise and said that the figure was always an exaggeration. I did not hear Deputy De Rossa saying in the last few days he is sorry he got it wrong by £1.5 billion. He said inThe Cork Examiner of 11 June 1992: “There is virtually no chance of Ireland getting the full £6 billion in EC funding which the pro-Maastricht campaigners suggested would be ours.” He did not apologise or withdraw the statement.
Deputy Cox was infinitely more pessimistic. God help us if we had sent this gentleman to Brussels to negotiate, he would have settled for £4.5 billion. He said inThe Cork Examiner of 30 June 1993: “In fact I was very surprised at what happened at Edinburgh because it was so much against the apparent odds... you do not need to be a mathematician to work out what the effect of losing £3 billion is on jobs”. He was talking about £3 billion from £7.5 billion which would have left £4.5 billion. He would have thought that was doing well. John Cushnahan in The Cork Examiner of 30 June 1993 said: “I would obviously love to see Ireland getting the maximum, but it now appears to be between £5 billion and £6 billion”. I could go on.
This is a positive plan and if either House had a sense of patriotism we would get behind it. We would get behind our Ministers and we would fight with them later on. Let us go forward with unity and have pride and confidence in ourselves. The reality is that we have delivered the goods since we went to Europe and we will do it on this occasion.
I wish to mention a couple of faults in the plan to the Minister because I have reservations. There are one or two areas where I would like to see more money being spent. Although the small commercial and recreational ports are receiving £100 million it is not enough. Finally, we are talking about spending in excess of £200 million on the light rail system in Dublin, unless part of that is spent on the extension of the DART to Greystones — which was promised by both parties in Government in the run-up to the last general election — Ministers can expect to hear much more about it in the next few months. The Minister will forgive me for being parochial but she realises that, in the words of Lyndon Johnson, in the end all politics is local.
I concur with the remarks which Senator Roche made about unity with regard to this plan. This is the first time, in my experience, that a positive plan has been put before the people with regard to their future. It is an excellent plan and it is unfortunate that this controversy has crept into it. I am sure, because of the way the plan is presented, that the extra £0.5 billion will be found. In my area we have been looking for the development of the Shannon estuary for the last 24 or 25 years. There is no hope for the people living in that region but at least on this occasion there are moneys in the Department of the Marine — £100 million is mentioned in the plan. Even if the figure is a little less than that, I have been assured by the Minister that money will be made available to the Limerick harbour board and the Foynes harbour board for the development of the estuary.
Kerry, where I live, is a tourist county and I am glad that the plan is geared towards tourism and improving fishing facilities for anglers, which have been greatly neglected due to lack of funds. It is a positive document which I am excited about. I am glad that money is allocated for secondary routes which had not been mentioned before in any previous plan. Money is also allocated for county roads which are in an extremely bad state. This is a positive document and anybody who knocks it is not an honest citizen of this country. We should be united in Europe fighting for the biggest amount of moneys we can get from the European Community for the future of the unemployed and the development of this country. I look forward to its implementation with great excitement.
I reiterate the Government's resolve to implement the National Development Plan in full and to secure the full EC commitment so that the combined EC and public funding input to the planned expenditure of over £20 billion can be met in full over the years of the plan.
I want to deal with the current controversy. The plan was drawn up on the basis that Ireland would ultimately receive £7.84 billion in EC support. I am as confident today as I have been throughout this process that that support will, in the ultimate, be forthcoming. The figures announced today by the Commission have been described as indicative and are clearly the minimum which we will receive. The Commissioner responsible and the President of the EC Commission have made it abundantly clear that the plan which we have submitted is a good one. The plan will not be changed in one degree, not one paragraph or comma will be deleted and we are determined to implement it in full.
There have been many allegations, notably in the other House this morning, which reflect on the integrity and character of some of the people involved in the negotiations. I refute them categorically. I have known the present Tánaiste for many years and there is no more honourable Member of this Oireachtas. Suggestions that he in any way fabricated an arrangement on 20 July are completely incompatible with his character. The fact that he was at all times accompanied by senior and respected public servants ought to put the issue beyond doubt. Members of this or the other House who cast doubt on the assurances given are also casting doubt on the integrity of those public servants who were present.
I suggest that if anyone seriously believes it is possible or desirable after making an agreement with the President of the EC Commission to then demand that he puts it in writing, he or she is suffering from delusions. Agreements between honourable politicians and public representatives are made all the time and accepted on the basis of good faith without the need for written contracts. In a splendid contribution yesterday Senator O'Kennedy, a former EC Commissioner with over 15 years experience of negotiations, outlined how business is done in the Commission.
When the Minister for Finance Deputy Ahern and I met Commissioner Millan he told us he was still having difficulty with the total figures. We told him categorically that the plan had been prepared on the basis of our expectation of £7.84 billion and on the basis of an agreement which we expected to be honoured. Nobody in Government to this day is questioning the good faith involved in that agreement. If the indicative figures announced today are not all that we are entitled to expect on the basis of that good faith, that is just a battle, not the war. At the end of the day we will get what our plan and the projects we put forward deserve and we will implement it. Senator Roche outlined how we have always in the past done better than the indicative share which has been put on the table as a basic minimum.
Senators will be aware that a statement agreed with representatives of President Delors and Commissioner Millan was issued this morning. The main points made were first, that the figures proposed by the Commission are indicative and do not constitute final quotas. Second, the range for Ireland tabled at today's meeting remains that proposed to the Tánaiste in July 1993- between 8.1 billion and 9.3 billion ECUs, equivalent at the top point to IR£7.84 billion at 1993 prices. Third, the proposals in the national plan can be fully realised and, consequently, they continue to provide the basis on which Ireland can achieve the maximum of the range advanced by the Commission for the period of the plan.
President Delors issued a public statement today about Ireland's allocation to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. While he acknowledges that our guaranteed allocation is below the expectation of 20 July, he leaves open the prospect of an increase in it. At the end of the day the deciding factor may be the quality of the programmes which comprise our national plan. President Delors has indicated that he considers the plan to be "excellent and full of promise for Ireland's economic and social development". I will quote from his statement today:
The Commission is now discussing precisely this question of the indicative share-out of the objective 1 resources of the Structural Funds, so that multiannual development programmes can be launched in early 1994.
The indicative amount proposed is in this sense a guarantee. Receipts from Community initiatives and the Cohesion Fund will come on top of this.
During the period covered, it will be possible to monitor the implementation of the programmes and, I hope, to increase the allocation in the light of the results achieved.
From this point of view, I consider excellent and full of promise for Ireland's economic and social development the Plan which has been prepared by the Government and which will serve as a basis for Community programmes.
We have the endorsement of President Delors for our programme and he has stated in writing that he hopes "to increase the allocation in the light of the results achieved". He also indicated in writing the top of thefourchette which is the sum of £7.84 billion.
It has been acknowledged in Brussels that our plan is an excellent one. This reflects the seriousness with which we approached the task of preparing it. We were extremely conscious that value for money should be central to the choice of programmes and projects, and that the plan should be ultimately judged by its permanent contribution to job creation and to Ireland's economic performance when the last ECU had been spent.
As I previously told this House, departmental proposals to spend these funds were over twice the funding available. The Government was acutely aware that each allocation in the plan had to be judged against the alternative ways of spending the money.
In preparing proposals, Departments were asked to quantify the employment effect of their proposals as well as their impact in relation to other criteria — impact on the long term unemployed and disadvantaged, gender balance, environmental impact, impact on regional rural development and co-operation with Northern Ireland.
This plan marks a radical departure from what we have done before. It contains new thinking, new ideas and, most importantly, it draws on the lessons learned from experience with previous plans. New elements in this plan are its focus on tackling disadvantage and poverty, its emphasis on gender balance, its practical concern for the environment and its strong regional dimension.
One of my central concerns was that this plan would reach into the heart of every community and, in particular, to those areas most blighted by chronic unemployment and poverty. The local development programme is an imaginative new initiative, building on the experience of theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress area based partnerships in tackling unemployment from a community focus.
To tackle unemployment in those areas where it may reach 80 per cent and where unemployment and poverty run a high risk of perpetuation from one generation to the next, we must rebuild their economic potential. Rebuilding skills, capability and enterprise among those who have become detached from the economic system may not give the same immediate returns as investing in areas with a sound economic base. However, it is a vital element of any national plan which claims to be inclusive and to reach out to all our citizens.
One of the major funding sources of the local development programme is an expanded community employment and development programme — CEDP. Central to the concept of the local development programme is the employment of local people on worthwhile jobs of tangible benefit to their local community, and which have important elements of training and personal development. This is not just the social employment scheme dressed up. The scheme takes on board the points made by Senator Henry about the retention of secondary benefits. Unlike the SES, it involves an important element of training and personal development. It is an integrated programme of training and work experience in which participants will work on projects identified by the local community to be of importance to them. Participants can also retain their secondary benefits. This scheme builds on our experience and on research such as that done by the PAUL project in Limerick in relation to the SES programmes.
The focus on gender balance is again an innovation for Irish development planning. This will be backed up by a specific monitoring of the plan to this effect. The monitoring should concentrate the minds of individual agencies involved in implementing the plan. I take on board the points made by Senator Henry about child care.
The plan sees a major shift towards public transport with an investment here of over £500 million. The £655 million investment in environmental services will tackle pollution in our coastal and inland waterways and clean up Dublin Bay. Another innovation is the urban renewal programme to enhance the environment of our cities and towns.
The strongest single message I received from this House when the plan was debated over two days and in meeting local groups prior to the finalisation of the plan was the need to invest in balanced regional development and local infrastructure, in particular in the county roads. Investment of almost £500 million in local roads in the plan is an innovation. I have consistently underlined, however, that this investment must take place in those roads serving economic development, whether in industry, forestry, fishing or tourism. They must be roads with jobs at the end. Likewise, the new county enterprise structures involve a new tapping into a spirit of local enterprise and a major local focus in the plan.
In drawing up the plan we had the benefit of a number of different evaluations which had been carried out on individual programmes and on the overall package of Structural Funds 1989-92. These evaluations have led to individual programmes being more sharply focused this time round and have guided the overall structure of the plan.
It is worth noting that the study by the ESRI, DKM and others concluded that the 1989-93 CSF will make a significant and lasting difference to living standards in Ireland. The long-run supply side effects of the last CSF will build up over a period and raise GNP by 1.1 per cent by the year 2000. The short term demand side effects will raise GNP by 3.5 per cent this year. The ESRI estimate this represents a real rate of return of between 7 and 8 per cent on the investment. The employment effects of the last round of funds are estimated to give a short term demand side effect of 30,000 jobs, and a long term supply side effect which would raise employment by 10,000. These results compare favourably with the results achieved in other objective 1 regions of the EC.
The ESRI report on the funds recommend a major emphasis on education and training, on investment in our human capital, an area where international research shows a return on investment of 7.5 per cent. That emphasis is clearly seen in the plan. The individual training programmes have been the subject of detailed evaluation and these studies are informing the design of the detailed schemes funded under the plan. While everyone acknowledges that there are areas where our training schemes have not always been well focused, it is too glib to dismiss, as some people have, all training. CERT training, for example, shows virtually 100 per cent placement rates in the tourist industry. Most FÁS training programmes score well on placement rates. By learning from the evaluation of individual schemes, we will be more sharp this time round in the implementation of the plan in the area of detailed schemes. This plan is built on experience.
In general, the approach adopted in allocating funds was to focus on areas of clear market failure, where the private sector unaided would not achieve the optimal social outcome. For example, the emphasis in tourism is on developing the product range and lengthening the season, rather than on subsidising accommodation which the private sector will provide if the tourist numbers are there and if we have the attractions in place. The private sector, where it is co-funding expenditure from the EC and the State, is most likely to select those projects for which it sees clear markets. It is the projects with the greatest economic return which will be pursued.
In the implementation of the plan it is important to avoid dead-weight or displacement expenditures —"dead-weight" meaning where the State funds activity which would have happened in any event, or "displacement" being any activity which simply displaces another project elsewhere.
Despite being built on careful evaluation where possible, it is not always possible to scientifically compare one programme or project with another, particularly where two different sectors are concerned. There is an element of judgment involved. Throughout the preparation of the plan, however, the Government's main target has been to achieve the maximum long term return in terms of sustainable jobs and lasting increases in our economic potential. We want to get the best long term return from these funds. This means that some programmes with greater job numbers in the short term must take second place to projects with a lasting benefit to output potential, competitiveness and long term jobs. Building motorways with a pick and shovel, for example, is labour-intensive in the short term, but hardly efficient, and short term considerations are second to long term gain.
The plan aims to create 200,000 gross jobs and 70,000 to 100,000 net non-agricultural jobs. We have been criticised for including a net jobs figure but it is better to be realistic and honest with the House. Senator Enright made a valid point about the need to focus on job maintenance. We are all acutely aware of that and indeed there is an emphasis on training and marketing in the plan. We are focusing on helping existing firms to develop their markets, hold on to existing work forces and, I hope, expand them.
The figures on job losses are based on our experience in the medium term in the economy. We cannot be insulated from technological and economic change, indeed, the reality of such change is our only economic certainty. It is more honest to face up to change and plan for it. Economies must be judged on how well they manage change and the key investments in the plan in education and training are designed to improve our ability in that regard.
The plan will make a substantial contribution to jobs growth but will certainly not be sufficient to tackle the jobs crisis in isolation. It must be pointed out that the plan is one element only of the Government's economic strategy. Other elements, including improved international competitiveness, increased support for risk taking and tax reform must follow if we are to improve our overall growth rate and increase the job intensity of economic activity and economic growth. The fact that these elements are not included in today's document does not signify that they are absent from the Government's economic programme, in fact, the opposite is the case.
One proposal which has caught the public imagination in recent weeks has been that from the CMRS to provide voluntary meaningful work opportunities for those on the dole. This echoes an earlier proposal by David Buttimer to the Oireachtas committee on jobs. I am glad that idea is being actively studied by the committee's successor, the broadly based National Economic and Social Forum. Such a proposal does not come without cost, one has to provide materials and training and most importantly, quality supervision and management. There is no point in taking on large numbers of people and offering them meaningless work without proper management, training and supervision and giving them a meaningful work opportunity.
There are also many practical issues which need to be addressed involving the relationship and overlap of existing job schemes as well as the issues of displacement and dead-weight. This proposal is being studied with the seriousness such an imaginative idea deserves. I am sure practical proposals will emerge from this discussion which will confront the paradox of mass unemployment while there is work of social importance crying out to be done.
Tax reform issues do not, as I said, feature in the plan. They are, as this House knows, a matter for the budget and will be dealt with in that context. This Government is committed to tax reform focused on the low paid and not to tax reduction which benefits exclusively or primarily the better off. Poverty traps for people on low pay is a real problem. It is being addressed by an expert working group under Donal Nevin which was established by my colleague, Deputy Burton. Its interim report, due before the budget, is expected to inform the Government's approach in the budget.
The plan has been developed with the maximum possible consultation and indeed Commissioner Millan acknowledged that when we presented the plan to him. I particularly welcomed the full debate in this House prior to finalisation of the plan proposals. Senators can be assured that we have tried, as far as possible, to incorporate the constructive views expressed in shaping the final plan. The Dáil also debated the plan at length prior to it being finalised.
I wish to briefly refer to some of the points made today. Senator Maloney raised the detail in relation to Donegal and I am sure that all Senators are wondering about the detail in relation to their areas. We have published some details in the plan, for example, on road schemes but detail on areas such as water schemes and individual projects will be worked out as we develop the operational programmes and the regional dimension of the plan.
The fact that something is not written down in black and white does not mean that it is off the agenda. For example, the Minister for Education has a working group examining where priorities lie in the allocation of the third level funding contained in the plan. Money will be allocated to individual projects and institutions when that working group has reported. Similar activities and studies have been put in place by other Ministers.
Senator Lee asked how the annual figures were arrived at. We tried to look at the spread of money over the period of the plan. The final figures only emerged today and it remains to be negotiated how much we will get on a year by year basis within the overall total agreed. The Senator mentioned the issue of in-service training. I am glad to reassure the House that a lot of money will be devoted to in-service training and I refer the House to the comprehensive speech on this issue by the Minister for Education last week in the Dáil debate. The local development programme is very much about involving local communities in rebuilding their own areas.
Senator Enright raised the issue of job maintenance which is very much part of Government thinking. He asked specific questions in relation to the peat fired station. I do not have the full details on this and I am sure the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications would be glad to communicate with the Senator on it. Bord na Móna is conducting a study which is almost finished. It is looking at the development and application of Finnish technology in this area and it is envisaged that this will be funded partly from the ESB's resources and partly from the Structural Funds. The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications has the full details in that area.
Senator Taylor-Quinn wanted to know if there was any split in the Government. I can reassure her that there is no split in the Government, we intend to be here for the next four years and to——
It is split 15 ways.
——get on with it. Senator Henry raised the issue of possible overlap between implementing bodies. As we work out the detail, we are acutely conscious of the need to ensure very clear assignment of responsibility. She also raised the issue of lack of targeting. I assure her that the local development programme will be sharply focused on the worst unemployment black spots and will be well targeted.
The Senator had some concerns in relation to aquaculture and angling tourism. The scientific evidence in this area is inconclusive but again we are very conscious of this. There is an environmental chapter in the plan and the EC will be assessing the plan for its environmental impact.
On consultation, I met the social partners, community and voluntary groups and non-governmental environmental organisations and the Council for the Status of Women. I had detailed discussions with each of the sub regional review committees. Each of these groups had prepared detailed written submissions which were an important input to the plan preparation process. In addition there was consultation with the central review committee and the National Economic and Social Forum on which all political groupings in the Oireachtas are represented. It is very much a plan prepared through a process of consultation and in that spirit it is important that we all get behind it and secure the best possible deal for this country.
I am happy to announce that the community and voluntary sector are to be included for the first time on the regional review committees being set up under the new regional authorities with responsibility for reviewing the plan. Appropriate voluntary sector interests will also be invited to participate in the sectoral monitoring committees. This is a document prepared through consultation and partnership. We want to see the whole community involved in ensuring we get the maximum value out of this plan. If we support it as a community, we can show Brussels we can deliver the best value for their money as any country in the Community. This will ensure that on the basis of our quality plan and quality projects, we will be in a position to draw down the maximum of the range and to secure the best possible deal for this country.
I just want to ask one question. How do the Government propose to implement the plan——
I would like to point out to the Senator that he cannot ask a question.
The plan has not changed despite the fact that there is a shortfall of £600 million. I wonder if it is realistic to proceed along those lines.
The Senator made a statement earlier; he may not speak again. The debate has concluded.