Tá an-áthas orm seans a bheith agam páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht ar an mBille Airgeadais atá os comhair an Tí.
The purpose of the Finance Bill is to give statutory effect to the taxation measures announced in the budget. It also makes a number of miscellaneous financial provisions. The Finance Acts are of course one of the main instruments of financial and economic policy in the State and the broad aim of the Government in a Finance Bill is to continue to build on the success of the constructive and developmental policies adopted by the Government during the past three years.
The tourism and transport sectors of the economy have made tremendous strides during the past three years. I need hardly remind the House that the development of the tourism sector has been given priority attention by the Government. Tourism, because of its potential for job creation and generating foreign earnings, is of vital importance to the development of the economy. During 1989 there was a continuation of the tremendous upsurge in tourism which started back in 1987 when we came into Government. The performance of tourism in 1989 broke new barriers. Estimates show that the number of overseas visitors grew by over 15 per cent to 2.8 million. Foreign tourism revenue more than kept pace with this growth and was close to the £1 billion mark. In the three year period, 1987-89, the number of visitors increased by 900,000 or almost 50 per cent while revenue increased pro rata. This increased tourism activity has been responsible for the creation of 18,000 new jobs in that period.
This performance highlights the enormous growth potential of the industry and justifies the priority which we in Government have afforded tourism since assuming office. The results have been brought about by a series of progressive and co-ordinated measures initiated by the Government in areas such as access transport, product development, marketing, involving the State agencies, private sector and industry alike. The new partnership being forged between the Government and the industry has played a vital role in restoring growth to tourism. The results are that the industry is now on course for achieving the five year growth targets set by the Government in 1987 for a doubling of visitor numbers and the creation of 25,000 new jobs by 1993.
When that programme was introduced many people were sceptical and indicated that the programme was too ambitious and the targets were not likely to be achieved. We realised that the targets were ambitious but were confident they were realisable. As the House is well aware, Ireland is on the brink of an exciting new decade with international travel forecast to increase by 6 per cent during the next ten years and travel to Ireland targeted to double by 1993. We are well on the way to ensuring the development of a tourism industry which can compete and prosper in the decades ahead when tourism will become the world's biggest economic activity.
Having said this it is vital that we remember that sustained success can only come about through vigilant attention to planning in all areas of tourism-manpower, marketing, product, financial feasibility, research, service and environment. Above all, there is a need to recognise the ultimate limitation of all growth and its relationship to environmental conservation. It is the latter on which, to a major degree, our tourism industry depends and we must all be aware of the inherent dangers in overdevelopment and over-exploitation of natural resources. Ireland, like any other country with an active tourism industry, has many problems to face and resolve. These problems have been identified and we continue, in co-operation with all others I have mentioned, to resolve these problems. The good news is that the results to date, for 1988 and 1989, show that the industry has responded magnificently to these challenges and that investment in new tourism products and infrastructure in Ireland has reached an all-time high.
We have pinpointed the importance which tourism is to have in the development of our economy for at least the next three years. To facilitate investment and job creation the Government have also decided the respective roles the public and private sectors need to play in the development of the industry. In this regard I cannot over-stress the importance of local initiatives in tourism promotion. It is fair to say the Government's management of tourism has been as flexible as possible during the past three years, allowing the administrative structures and investment institutions to operate in a climate of confidence and growth.
The operational programme for tourism announced in January of this year is critical to the achievement of the Government's ambitious targets. Under this programme £146 million in EC Structural Funds will be made available for investment in our tourism product by both the public and private sectors. Investment will be directed at extending and upgrading the range and quality of the product as well as towards marketing and training. It is expected that the programme will generate total investment of well over £300 million. When account is taken of other investment outside of the programme in areas such as accommodation, catering and transport services, total investment over the period of the programme 1989-93 is likely to top the £600 million mark.
Investment in our tourism amenities and attractions will be complemented during the next four years by a range of other European Community-assisted works in the areas of access transport, roads and environmental services all of which are crucial to the overall development of the industry. In the coming years we should see radical improvements in our tourism plant which will ensure that we have a world class saleable product which will generate a significant increase in tourist traffic and create the required additional 25,000 new jobs which has been set as a target by us for the industry.
The Government's initiative on tourism and aviation has ensured a continuation of growth of passenger traffic at State airports. Total passenger numbers through the airports in 1989 was over seven million, an increase of 13 per cent on 1988. I am very happy to say that growth in Cork Airport rose by 16 per cent in 1989 to 627,000 passengers, a very substantial improvement which augurs well for the future. The substantial increase in traffic through State airports over the past few years looks set to continue and a consequence has been extra pressure placed on existing facilities. To relieve that pressure and provide for continued growth in passenger numbers, it is intended that the major capital investment programme undertaken in recent years will be expanded into the 1990s. Expenditure of up to £21 million has been authorised for State airport development in 1990. Projects planned for commencement this year include an extension of the passenger terminal and car parking facilities at Dublin Airport. A new extension is being provided at Cork Airport and work on this project is currently underway. The programme also includes improvement to the passenger terminal and other facilities at Shannon Airport.
Under the national development programme expenditure of the order of £100 million is envisaged in the period up to 1993. This programme will provide first rate international facilities for both passenger and freight traffic to cater for the expected increases in traffic which will stem from further liberalisation of air transport within the Community and also economic growth.
Traffic through the regional airports has also experienced significant growth in recent years. Passenger movements through this network rose from 280,000 in 1988 to over 400,000 in 1989. This growth is expected to continue this year and in the years ahead. Development of the regional airports is an essential element in the creation of a complementary and integrated national network and is also an essential element in the Government's access transport policy on strategy to reduce Ireland's peripherality. Financial assistance totalling £5 million was given in 1988-89 for the upgrading of facilities at these airports. Further investment in regional airports is under consideration in the context of EC Structural Funds. The planned expenditure on airport infrastructure is necessary not only to cater for the growth in passenger traffic but also for the growth in freight as we gear ourselves to the needs of the Single Market, the achievement of which is now less than 1,000 days away.
The Government's National Development Plan 1989-1993 published last year focused national and Community attention on the apparent disadvantages which Ireland will have to face in the Single European Market. Principal among these is the fact that transport costs for the Irish exporters to Europe account for between 9 per cent and 10 per cent of export sales values, a figure which is approximately twice that incurred by our counterparts trading with one another on the European mainland. The future performance of the Irish economy requires that this gap in competitiveness be reduced significantly. There are many facets to this problem but a key requirement which the European Commission has accepted in principle is infrastructural investment. This investment is being directed at reducing, as far as possible, the locational and cost disadvantages which arise because of Ireland's peripherality in the Community. The strategic emphasis is on improving access to Community markets. A major expansion on upgrading of facilities will, accordingly, need to be undertaken at Irish ports as well as at airports in order to meet the future needs of Irish trade and tourism in the EC. In addition, road and public transport networks will require to be substantially improved to our key ports and airports in particular.
On foot of the commitment from the EC to provide Structural Funds money to assess and assist such infrastructural developments, the Department of Tourism and Transport are preparing, in conjunction with other relevant Departments, an operational programme for roads and other transport infrastructure which will be formally submitted to the European Commission soon. The Minister and I are hopeful that the necessary EC Structural Funds money will become available for these new developments in the autumn of this year.
In association with these planned investments, the Department have commissioned a major consultancy study the main objective of which is to recommend and evaluate possible investment strategies appropriate to the development of better sea and air freight services to our major Community trading partners. This study which should be available within two months is being steered by a committee representative of the Department of Tourism and Transport and the Department of the Marine as well as the European Commission. The study will examine organisational factors in the Irish transport sector which affects the competitive position of Irish exports and exporters vis-à-vis our European trading partners. Recommendations arising from the consultancy study will be given careful consideration with a view to improving Ireland's links with our Community partners.
The Government have pursued a radical and dynamic air transport policy both at bilateral level and within the European Community having regard to the fundamental importance of air transport for the development and expansion of our economy in terms of trade, industrial, tourism and social relations with the EC and the rest of the world and bearing in mind Ireland's location on the periphery of Europe.
The second phase of air transport liberalisation in the EC is a major priority in the transport programme of Ireland's Presidency during which it will be adopted by the Council of Transport Ministers. During the recent Council of Transport Ministers meeting substantial progress was made in developing the measures which form the second phase package and there is no doubt these measures will result in more open and competitive air transport within the Community which will enable Irish airlines to build on the success achieved under the terms of the initial phase of liberalisation which came into effect in January 1988. While the Government will continue to support the dismantling of unnecessary restrictive regulations and intervention in the air transport market, they also recognise the need for a balanced approach which promotes healthy competition and, at the same time, deals with predatory or exploited practices.
The success of the Government's liberal and forward-looking policies on air transport are there to be seen in terms of passenger growth which has seen passenger throughput at our airports virtually double over the past five years. This growth has been paralleled by the rapid development and expansion at regional airports most of which are now served by direct services to the UK and by other connections at Dublin to a wider range of international destinations. In addition, the recent decision to modify the requirements in relation to transatlantic charter services in order to allow charter flights to operate directly between North America and Cork and Connacht Regional Airports should result in new charter business being brought to these airports and the regional hinterland which they service. I know that Cork interests are already active in making arrangements to exploit to the fullest extent possible the change of circumstances of that airport. All of the foregoing developments are bringing and will continue to bring significant benefits to tourism and industrial development at both regional and national level.
Turning to more immediate issues which have a bearing on tourism and transport plans for 1990 I am glad to report that the Government grant of £500,000 together with the repayable loan of £500,000 which was made available to Swansea-Cork Ferries Limited for the provision of a service in 1990, have ben taken up by the company. The service will commence on 9 May and will operate to the end of September 1990. I expect that the service will be of significant benefit to tourism interests in the south-west region, and in that regard, I am glad to report that the response so far to the service has been very encouraging. Indeed, the promotional drive by the company in the south-west is also very encouraging.
In a general context, the Government fully support the maintenance and expansion of our ferry services in the interests of tourism and trade. I must stress, however, that it is Government policy that access transport services should operate on a commercial basis. In those circumstances, Swansea-Cork Ferries Limited have been informed that the Government have decided that no further Exchequer assistance will be available to the company from 1990 onwards. Judging by the initial impact of the service and the encouraging signs that are there for the company to provide the service, I am confident that this need will not arise. Of course, it is now up to the people of the Cork and Kerry region to support the service and prove that a self-sustaining service can be maintained beyond 1990. In this matter, I know the people of the south and south-west will not be found wanting.
The B & I have recently negotiated improved sailing slots at Holyhead port, which I believe will help the company's performance in 1990 and beyond. I am confident that B & I management and staff will continue in their efforts to turn the company around and make it a commercially viable concern. Although substantial progress has been made, major challenges lie ahead and it should be clear to everybody concerned that there is a long way to go. Last year, the B & I reported a net loss of just under £1.5 million as compared to a loss of £10.7 million in 1987 and this represents an improvement of over £9 million in just two years. We are all aware that legislation giving effect to an increase of £7 million in the authorised share capital of the company has recently been passed by the Oireachtas. We will continue to monitor the performance of the B & I.
The continued growth in air traffic has given rise to the need to expand the capacity of the national airline as well as the need, to which I have already referred, to expand and develop the airports. The estimated expenditure for the 1990 public capital programme by Aer Lingus amounts to over £189 million, or more than double the previous year's out-turn. The bulk of this expenditure relates to fleet replacement — £131 million approximately. This covers the scheduling of eight new aircraft for delivery to the company this year, bringing to 14 the number of new aircraft acquired by the company since 1987. The need for these new aircraft reflects the expansion in traffic arising from the general liberalisation of European air transport and the increase in inbound tourism resulting from Government policy. In addition to the airline's expenditure on aircraft, the company will also be making substantial investment in airline related activities, most notably the establishment of a wide bodied hangar at Dublin Airport. This project, which involves an investment of £35 million, is scheduled to come on stream in early 1991. It will be capable of servicing the largest aircraft currently in operation, notably the latest Boeing 747-400, and the new facility will be targeted at a world market.
Substantial IDA grants have been approved by the Government for the project which is expected to create 560 new jobs mainly for skilled people by 1997. This development is very much in the spirit of the Programme for National Recovery to which Aer Lingus are making a substantial contribution in terms of employment creation, not only in their subsidiary companies but also in the frontline areas of their air transport business.
Aer Rianta like Aer Lingus have been looking forward and outward in their development plan. The company's achievement in securing very valuable joint venture contracts with the Soviet airline, Aeroflot, was a very major breakthrough. These activities commenced in 1988 with the establishment of facilities for the painting and refurbishment of aircraft at Shannon and the opening of duty free shops at Moscow Airport. In summer 1989 duty free shops were also opened at Leningrad Airport. Onboard sales on Aeroflot international flights out of Moscow also commenced in 1989. A downtown shopping centre in the Pribaltiskava Hotel — I do not know how I got my tongue around that — in Leningrad was also opened on a joint venture basis in December 1989.
Other joint venture projects in the USSR include the establishment of duty free shops at Vyborg on the Finnish border, Kiev and Tashkent which are also due to open in 1990. Arising from the company's strong relationship with Aeroflot, other business opportunities are being developed by Aer Rianta in Eastern Europe. The have also recently secured a contract for the setting up and management of a new duty free shopping complex at Bahrain airport. These developments are influenced by Government policy for the State sector to use their resources to the best advantage of the national economy.
The expansion of aviation activity both in Ireland and worldwide has had an unfortunate side effect in adding to air traffic congestion. Air traffic congestion is a costly ineffiency that we can ill afford. The problems it causes in terms of its impact on tourism, trade and commerce have been well documented. Given the predicted increases in air traffic, Ireland has used its Presidency of the Council of Transport Ministers to push this issue to the top of the agenda for urgent action.
At the March Transport Council meeting, the Minister for Tourism and Transport presented a series of proposals geared towards increasing co-operation between the EC Commission and Eurocontrol, the European body responsible for the control of air traffic, to eliminate air congestion. I am happy to say, and I was present at the meeting, that after a marathon session these proposals were unanimously agreed and adopted by the Council. The day before yesterday Ministers of the 23 European Civil Aviation Conference States, including Ireland, committed themselves jointly to a comprehensive and pragmatic strategy which aims to provide increasing airspace and control capacity in Europe. Eurocontrols in co-operation with the EC Commission, will undertake centralised management of the project and will, first, harmonise standards, specifications and procedures and, second, will integrate systems so that the operations of the whole system functions as if it were a single unit.
Irish air space forms part of the European air space where congestion problems are of serious dimensions. So far as we can, we have designed all our new navigation and communications systems so that they will be compatible with similar developments which are currently being planned and implemented in Europe. There are no instant solutions to the problems of air traffic congestion, but remarkable progress has been made on domestic and international fronts to ensure that the system and its capacity are expanded in a safe way to meet the increasing demands of the public whether travelling for business or pleasure purposes.
Coming down to earth, so to speak, there are two other matters that I wish to mention before concluding, namely, international road haulage and domestic passenger transport legislation. I am pleased to report that the first months of the Irish Presidency have seen major steps towards liberalisation of the road haulage sector. At the Council of Transport Ministers meeting in March an increased allocation of authorisations for 1990 for international haulage within the Community was agreed. It is hoped to obtain agreement at the June Council on increases for 1991 and 1992 and so bridge the gap to the completion of the international transport market.
From 1 July a new system will allow a limited number of hauliers from a member state to operate point to point haulage within another member state for the first time. This will offer further prospects for Irish hauliers to exploit the opportunities of the expanding internal market. Discussions are now under way on the framework within which Community hauliers can operate in a completely liberalised market after 1992. It is obvious therefore that new markets are opening up for Irish hauliers in Europe and I am confident that the Irish haulage industry can rise to these new challenges.
The radical review of the Road Transport Act, 1932, and all the issues associated with the update and replacement of legislation is taking place against a background of increasing competition in the Irish transport industry. Any new legislation must take account of the legitimate aspirations of the private sector for more open access to the provision of public transport services. The needs of the general public for improved and more cost effective transport services must also be met while remaining mindful of the need to provide a socially desirable service. I am confident this new Bill, which will be published later in the year, will meet these needs while injecting a meaningful and realistic degree of liberalisation into the bus transport area.