Irish Budget: Infra key to recovery plan

Irish Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, says infrastructure a key focus for Recovery Fund; core capital programmes get €1.6bn increase

Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, has announced an “unprecedented” total Budgetary package of over €17bn for 2021.

Unveiling the Budget in the Dail, Donohoe revealed a €3.4bn Recovery Fund, which he said would focus on “three main areas: infrastructure development, reskilling and retraining, supporting investment and jobs”.

On PPPs, the Budget documents confirmed that money is allocated for six Higher Education projects during 2021, as part of the Bundle 1 programme, while it added that an allocation of €2.8bn for new housing stock would include 1,000 homes to be built through PPP.

Following Donohoe’s statement, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath fleshed out some of the plans, which included €600m more for capital expenditure, over the €1bn already earmarked in the National Development Plan (NDP) before the impact of Covid-19.

“It is the right time to invest in infrastructure,” he said, stating that the overall €10.1bn capital expenditure is the largest amount ever allocated by the Irish government.

McGrath said the investment will target a range of “critical projects”, including major road schemes, new rail carriages, plus investment in social infrastructure such as higher education facilities and new schools.

“I am also immediately providing an additional €80m to the Department of Education to support its school building programme, ICT and minor works schemes,” he added.

McGrath revealed last month that the Budget would include increases in infrastructure spend as part of the country’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Donohoe admitted there remains a “high level of uncertainty regarding the scale of the deficit for this year”, because of “the possibility of more stringent containment measures being implemented in the final quarter of the year, and the associated budgetary costs”.