One of the things that stands out for me in regard to this Government is that, in my first week in the Dáil in 2011, we did not have a penny to spend and we could not afford a nail to hammer into a wall, whereas we are now talking about projects which will involve a capital spend of €116 billion. I welcome Project Ireland 2040. It is highly important that we plan for the future. Those of us who have spent time on the rugby field or coaching young people will understand the phrase, "Fail to plan, plan to fail". I very much welcome the fact the Government has put forward this project and the National Development Plan 2018-2027, as well as, in the agricultural sphere, the extension of Food Wise 2025.
While I am not going to talk about specific projects, I am fascinated by where the funding is coming from. The Government is proposing that €91 billion will come from Exchequer funds and the other €25 billion will come from semi-State companies and other sources. State-owned businesses that are not mentioned are the banks. Those of us who had their first six months in the Houses in 2011 will remember the State invested €10 billion in AIB and Bank of Ireland and had previously put €10.6 billion into those two banks. There is a lot of hoo-ha at present, particularly from the banking sector, that they should look to be set free and should be allowed run their businesses again. We currently own 71% of AIB and 14% of Bank of Ireland. Some €20 billion of what we invested was from the National Pensions Reserve Fund and, at the time, I believed that fund should have been used for capital investment. There has been a capital deficit in this country since 2009 up to the arrival of this new national development plan for 2018 onwards. I very much welcome that plan and also the vision of Project Ireland 2040. The €20 billion we put into AIB and Bank of Ireland could have been used for capital projects, to keep the people who had to leave this country working here in the construction industry. That €20 billion could have saved us a lot of money on social welfare payments and it could have been used to make better investments in schools, hospitals and roads that we are now trying to catch up on. As a result of the economic crash, we have had a capital investment deficit.
I suggest, given our 71% and 14% ownership of those two banks, that we do not sell any further shares. My reasoning is that, as we invested €20.6 billion, we have to get that money back plus the foregone costs that are associated. Any banker will explain that if one has €20 billion to invest, one expects to make a profit. We should not be just getting that money back; we should be getting it back plus a profit, plus the foregone costs on social welfare payments and other payments the State and the taxpayer had to make.
I will make a suggestion which the Minister of State, Deputy Patrick O'Donovan, might take on board. In the next couple of weeks the State will receive some €268 million from the dividends paid by AIB and Bank of Ireland. There is a small shovel-ready project in Naas, in my own area. Naas General Hospital has been looking for an endoscopic unit, it has planning permission ready and all of the enabling works have been done. It is looking for €16 million to complete the project. That €16 million will allow 1,200 people to come off the waiting list for endoscopy at Naas General Hospital. It will also allow increased capacity in the day ward, which will allow the hospital to increase its theatre capacity. That €16 million which is coming into the NTMA could be used to complete that endoscopic unit at Naas and the remainder of the €268 million could be used to build many primary schools throughout the country. I ask the Minister to consider what we are going to do with the dividends we are going to receive from the banks, and that we do not use them to pay down debt but use them for future capital projects, and also that we maintain ownership of the shares we have in both those banks.