Limerick Chamber has urged Government to make addressing regional economic disparities a priority in all key budget decisions this year.
Launching the pre-budget decision of Limerick Chamber – the largest Chamber in the region and the only one making a direct submission on the forthcoming budget – its CEO Dr. James Ring said that this year’s budget may be the most critical to date in terms of addressing regional economic imbalances.
The Mid-West has physical infrastructure deficits, he said, but the capital investment required to deliver this would have a significant return on investment for Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.
While Limerick Chamber, the CEO continued, recognises Government’s commitment to providing an increased level of capital investment, this will still leave Ireland with one of the lowest levels of infrastructure investment in the EU, with the regions scoring even lower. Limerick Chamber is recommending that Ireland should spend at least 4% of GDP on public infrastructure.
“Government this year announced the fifth Action Plan for Jobs, with a specific focus on the regions, including a €530 million spend on enterprise-focused initiatives and investment in property solutions. All the initiatives set out are welcome but for us, an absolute priority must be creating the infrastructure necessary to enable our region compete with every other city/region in Europe,” said Dr. Ring.
“With the economy and a reported €1bn to work with, this budget is the time for Government to address regional economic imbalances. Projects like the M20 Limerick to Cork motorway and the N60 Foynes to Limerick upgrade will deliver a huge return on investment as they will make doing business here easier and make the region more attractive for inward investment.
“These key projects have a Limerick focus but the benefit will be region wide. Regions need a strong city at their core and the stronger that Limerick is, the stronger that Clare and North Tipperary, etc. will be. Strong regions also make for strong countries so it’s imperative that this budget is used as a stimulus for balanced regional development.”
Chamber President Catherine Duffy, General Manager of international financial services company Northern Trust, said that the more the region works together, the better it will be for all. “Limerick, as the region’s capital, is the urban hub of the Mid-West but there’s a mutual dependency between it and both Clare and Tipperary.
“There’s strength in numbers and I would certainly recommend a greater coming together of the three. If we can work with a common voice, we can achieve a lot more,” she said.
In addition to accelerating capital investment spend across the Mid-West, Limerick Chamber is also recommending significant tax changes, including reducing capital gains tax to 10%, setting a timeline for bringing the USC for self-employed people in line with PAYE workers’ and creating a tax-exemption scheme that encourages individuals to loan or invest in start-up companies.
Under housing proposals, the Chamber recommends the introduction of a 9% VAT rate for residential construction for a two year period and the introduction of a vacant land tax – calculated on land value – to encourage a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to land ownership. The Chamber is also recommending that the current minimum goals of 30mpbs for download and 6mpbs for upload should be increased to reflect the pace of development in this sphere.
It is proposing the introduction of a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme to promote new enterprise and entrepreneurship. And ring-fencing of funds from commercial rates to support local economic development and business growth.
Other proposals include establishing a programme to enable 50,000 apprenticeships be completed by 2020 and the placing greater emphasis on the quality of childcare addressing lack of resources for after-school services.
On the environment, Limerick Chamber is proposing Government should set out a plan for the phasing out of oil boilers and financial incentives for promoting the retrofit of existing and low carbon heating choices.