National Planning Framework – A Fantasy Charter for the Private Sector

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The government’s latest planning framework – Ireland 2040 – has been met with great fanfare. Since Friday the government spin machine has been in overdrive ably supported by the mainstream press. Despite presiding over record crises in health and housing, the Ireland of tomorrow will supposedly be a land of endless opportunities.

The state will apparently spend €116 billion over the next two decades on all manner of goodies – including three new hospitals (with 2,600 extra beds) €3 billon for urban and rural renewal projects and an M20 from Limerick to Cork. Beyond this, they are promising balanced growth for the regions and an extra 550,000 homes.

The tag line from the government is that the lack of a detailed plan has left Ireland in a mess. Pushing his proposal, Leo Varadkar admitted “If we don’t have a plan, then we will just continue on the same trajectory that we are on now and in that scenario, everyone is a loser”.

We agree that the government have made a mess of things, but Varadkar’s plan is little more than a series of empty promises from a party that has had nearly a decade to build houses and proper infrastructure. This is fantasy economics spun out to build support for FG in anticipation of a general election.

Privatisation Through the Back Door

If implemented, the plan would also see a major transfer from taxpayers to the private sector. In 2015 the government enacted a measure to make sure that no department spent more than 10{239d30f98c9f1658382d6173e80453fa40137ba7d875cc88a34cc6d8ea475d43} of its budget on Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s). This limited the ability of private companies to charge the public for infrastructure – a measure than has now been dropped for the Ireland 2040 plan.

The recent collapse of Carillion is a stark reminder of the danger of PPP’S. Carillion is a UK construction company that collapsed at the start of the year leaving schools unfinished and school children without proper resources.

In addition, the state has also insisted that for every euro a local council spends it must find a second euro from the private sector. This is another drive towards privatisation as local councils must get into bed with private capital if they want to develop infrastructure.

Strip away the endless drive towards privatisation, however, and the idea of state led development is a really a vindication of People Before Profit’s economic policy.

We have always said that leaving the economy to the bankers and developers was a recipe for disaster – a point now being (partly) accepted by the government.

In our Budget Submission for 2018 we showed how nearly €25 billion could be found today – never mind waiting 20 years for an Ireland to be proud of. Our vision is one of state led development in areas such as construction, banking and renewable energy.

We showed how major social infrastructure and state led employment can be generated now via progressive taxes on the very richest. This way, hospital capacity, houses and infrastructure can be built without the need to enrich private interests. Our plan for a Socialist Ireland is genuinely possible but it will need more imagination that the government have shown for this country or its inhabitants.

For more information read our budget submission here.