10 million reasons to be ambitious
Speaking at the Global Economic Forum at Dublin Castle, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy outlined how the island of Ireland can potentially cater to a population of 10 million over coming decades. Mr McCoy said we now need to set out a vision and a plan for an island characterised by world-class infrastructure, productive investment and a great quality of life.
Highlighting the ambition of the business community, Mr McCoy said: “Nearly four years ago, Irish business set out a vision of a country that could grow at 3-4% every year; a country among the most prosperous regions of Europe; and a country with a quality of life and a standard of living to match. At the time many were sceptical; perhaps understandably. However, after a second year where Irish growth strongly outperformed the rest of Europe, and with key economic indicators pointing in the right direction, it is increasingly clear that such a vision is there for the taking.
“Today, the island has a population of 6.5 million. This is a comparatively low figure when seen beside populations of a range of other smaller EU countries. Current projections from both sides of the border point toward the possibility of a 10 million strong population by 2065. This brings with it a range of new and exciting opportunities, but also challenges. This is why we need to be ambitious. An island of 10 million people will require state of the art infrastructure, the right skills mix and the level of income and economic activity to underpin such ambition."
Mr McCoy said we need to radically rethink how we plan and invest in infrastructure and the built environment more generally and called on the Government to deliver much-needed investment in all regions across of the country. This will present new employment opportunities, and also a fresh opportunity to design better communities and attractive commercial hubs.
Identifying areas for significant investment, Mr McCoy said: “Sizeable infrastructure gaps in the transport, health, education, energy and environmental sectors should be addressed as a priority. We continue to work with our CBI colleagues in Belfast to identify all-island investment projects, and the new political deal in Northern Ireland should add new momentum to this work. As it stands, we’re not investing nearly enough.
"Massive spending cuts during the crisis years have left us playing catch-up. We now have the second lowest level of investment in the EU. Government capital spend will be at the third lowest over the next five years and Ireland will be third lowest in the EU. While we need to keep a firm grip on current expenditure and eliminate the deficit we also need to ensure the country has the transport, education, housing and broadband infrastructure it needs to prosper in the years ahead."
Mr McCoy urged the Government to be ambitious in national planning and to drive future capital funding to align local with national programmes. Ibec has been promoting the ambition of an Atlantic cities strategy which is needed to ensure complementary growth between Dublin and the cities of Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway, Sligo and Letterkenny in terms of size, infrastructure, population and other resources. Mr McCoy also encouraged the Government to deliver investment that facilitates urban regeneration in brownfield sites in all our major cities.
“Designing a new Ireland, an Ireland that works, for business and citizens alike is no easy task, but it’s a job we all have a massive stake in. Through leadership, co-operation and common purpose, the spirit, vision and promise of being ambitious for a prosperous 10 million population can be fulfilled. And needless to say, Irish business is ready to play its part in crafting and delivering that ambition," he concluded.