I thank the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, for attending the House. I raise this issue as it has come to my attention twice in the past two weeks. I met representatives of the Construction Industry Federation in Cork recently when they had a regular briefing for Members. Among a number of issues raised was the need to ensure commercial properties with loans under the auspices of NAMA would be developed and brought to market. The issue is considered to be an impediment to attracting investment from abroad and domestically.
Last week, the National Competitiveness Council produced one of many reports which I follow with interest as best I can. It concerned the cost of doing business in Ireland and one of the recommendations was that NAMA move to provide certainty for the commercial property market. The manner in which NAMA will deal with unfinished developments must be addressed, along with how assets will be disposed of. It recommended that an orderly programme of disposals and interventions is desirable at this stage. Properties should be brought to market on a phased basis over the next few years. A lack of information on these properties is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. The report also recommends that the property service regulatory authority compile data on purchasing and leasing relating to price, floor space, quality, location and finish.
The Minister of State may argue that if there is a survey of available office and commercial spaces in the country, there would be an excess, but there is a lack of grade 4 high-quality office space, especially in the Dublin area. There will be a shortage in the next 18 to 24 months in that respect, so if we are to get to a position to attract new investment, many properties must be brought up to required standards. This will ensure IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and others can attract businesses.
Recently I attended a meeting where Mr. Frank Daly, chairman of NAMA, outlined the progress of the agency to date. I recognise that in the past 18 months it has done much work in getting EU approval, acquiring a portfolio of loans, engaging with developers and recruiting staff. That takes time. Mr. Daly indicated that the agency is working with loans related to properties that are well-tenanted, such as office blocks, shopping centres and other retail and industrial premises. However, these active properties are not the kind I am discussing. I refer to properties that could have a high level of occupancy such as fourth generation office space instead of older office space that does not have the kind of future we need if we are to move forward.
I know the argument may seem irrelevant at this time but the issue is important if we are to create certainty in future markets and get to such a point in the next 18 to 24 months when it is predicted that we will need this type of office space. Now is the time to move forward and create certainty in the area. The point was made to me that NAMA can borrow up to €5 billion if it needs money to facilitate the development of properties to make them marketable. That has not been touched so far and I hope the Minister of State can answer that query. Why has NAMA not touched the funding as some would argue it should do now to get a return on those properties? I thank the Cathaoirleach for making time available and I look forward to the Minister of State's response.