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NDP Repackaging of Previous Commitments Not Good Enough - Ó Caoláin

23 January, 2007

Speaking following the publication of the new National Development Plan, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that much of the plan was a repackaging of previous commitments and that it lacked the imagination and vision for the future implied in the title of the plan Transforming Ireland - A Better Quality of Life for All. Deputy Ó Caoláin welcomed the measures in respect of all Ireland economic development but said that they did not go nearly as far as Sinn Féin had hoped.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: "This plan and the commitments contained within it will need to be examined in detail. The Government must make adequate time available in the Dáil to debate it in full. A brief overview suggests that much of what is contained in it is simply a repackaging of previous commitments and policies.

"The title 'Transforming Ireland - A Better Quality of Life for All' is highly ironic when you consider that for many people their quality of life has deteriorated significantly during the present government's time in office.

"Securing housing has become more difficult. More people are forced to commute previously unimagined distances to work. Traffic congestion is choking our cities. Access the healthcare is dependent on your ability to pay and on where you live.

"Many targets in the previous NDP were not achieved on time or on budget. Many programmes remain unfinished, while there were substantial overspends in a number of areas. In terms of balanced regional development it's failure was particularly notable as the sprawl of Dublin accelerated and spending actually fell short for the Border, Midlands and Western region.

"Sinn Fein had lobbied for an increased focus on cross-border development and met with Minister Cowen directly on this matter. We had sought substantial investment in cross border infrastructure and the integration of economic and social infrastructure. Unfortunately some commitments in relation to North-South cooperation are quite vague, such as the pledge to jointly improve access to health services in border region. We are merely promised a study on health cooperation. Likewise with education.

"In other areas it does not advance the existing position. It is especially disappointing that in relation to the Ulster Canal it commits only to continue to explore the possibility for its re-opening. There is no commitment to reopen the canal or funding allocated for this purpose. While the plan identifies the Dublin - Derry/Letterkenny route as a key strategic cross border route it does not commit to funding the development of the dual carriageway which has long been sought.

"Sinn Fein welcomes the commitment to build 60,000 units of social housing. However this still falls well short of the 73,000 additional units that the NESC report on housing has identified as necessary by 2012. This commitment has to be seen against a background where the government did not deliver fully on its social housing commitments in the previous plan.

"I am also disappointed that this plan proposes to continue to use the discredited system of PPPs. There is a growing evidence body of evidence undermining the arguments which have been made in favour of PPPs in the past. PPPs do not make economic sense. The ESRI mid term review of the NDP 2000 -- 2006 stated that "Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) should only be used where they bring efficiency gains. They are likely to be an expensive means of financing new investment." Yet under this plan 39% of the spending on public transport is to be by way of PPPs."


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