Ireland’s Regions Suffering from ‘Two-Speed Economy’ says Regional Assembly Report

Ireland’s Regions Suffering from ‘Two-Speed Economy’ says Regional Assembly Report

A new study from Ireland’s Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) says the areas it represents risk being left behind as part of Ireland’s ‘two-speed’ economy.

The NWRA monitors the delivery of EU structural funding in the regions and represents 8 counties along the border with Northern Ireland and on the western seaboard.

Historically, the predominantly rural regions have had a lower GDP than the rest of Ireland, and it has now emerged that they been downgraded by the European Union from being ‘developed’ to being designated as ‘in transition.’

The report, entitled A Region in Transition: The Way Forward has found startling levels of inequality in terms of investment across key areas such as health, education, infrastructure and transport.

The report gathered and analysed data over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2018.

It found that investment in health in the regions per head of population was below the national average in 8 out of the 10 years analysed.

The regions received just €87,240 for national roads per km, compared to the national average of €116,054.

Average State investment in Third Level education infrastructure per undergraduate was significantly lower at €141, compared to the national average of €197.

The NWRA says Ireland’s Northern and Western regions have not performed economically as well as other regions in Ireland or relative to the EU norm. This is despite the regions demonstrating sophisticated local economies specialising in biotechnology, medical technology, precision engineering and artificial intelligence.

According to the Assembly there is an opportunity to enhance the ability of the regions to provide affordable housing and a cheaper cost of living, as an alternative to the capital city Dublin, which it refers to as overpriced.

The report recommends an official policy of ‘positive discrimination’ for the regions to include additional investment and sets out 11 recommendations.

These include:

  • Developing Galway City and other designated ‘Regional Growth Centres’ and ‘Key Towns’ to sufficient scale
  • Improving  human capital via Third Level institutes
  • Enhancing regional infrastructure that enables growth, supports small to medium enterprises in rural communities and encourages the growth of remote working

Director of the NWRA, David Minton said that if the regional gaps in GDP are too large and remain consistent over time, this will inevitably lead to further economic decline.

He said, ‘Gaps in output tend to be accompanied by high levels of unemployment, low levels of disposable income and prolonged population shifts. This will ultimately continue to see shifts towards Dublin, which is not sustainable. Ireland needs its regions performing.’

(Image by sparkle-motion via creative commons)




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