Planning Ireland to 2040: how to address our economic development policy weaknesses

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O'Leary, Eoin
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Walter de Gruyter GmbH
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The National Planning Framework proposes to plan for Ireland to 2040. Its aim is to ‘ensure Ireland’s long term economic, environmental and social progress for all parts of our country’ (Government of Ireland, 2017). This paper is concerned with policymaking for Irish economic development to 2040. It is based on a presentation given by the author to a policy forum in University College Cork (UCC) on 3 November 2017.1 In order to plan for twenty-two years into the future, policymakers would need to address policy weaknesses of the past. Drawing on O’Leary (2015), this paper contends that unless Irish policymakers change deep-seated mindsets in relation to enterprise development that have resulted in underachievement by the economy since the 1970s, the likelihood of Ireland achieving its full potential in 2040 will be compromised. In the next section, three interrelated policy problems are identified that need to be addressed in order to sustain national prosperity to 2040: first, a chronic weakness in developing critical masses of internationally competitive indigenous enterprises; second, repeated failure to adopt a hierarchy of city regions, towns and rural locations as drivers of enterprise development and national competitiveness; and, finally, the lack of institutional learning from recurring policy mistakes in relation to over-centralisation and rent-seeking. The final section proposes policy solutions for the three problems identified, all of which are interrelated. These are, first, to view the development of critical masses of internationally competitive indigenous enterprises as a decentralised, bottom-up, organic process; second, to decide on the optimal spatial boundaries for city regions, towns and rural areas to promote Irish economic development; and, finally, to introduce limited decentralisation, with control and responsibility for enterprise development being given to elected authorities in city regions, towns and rural areas.
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O’Leary, E. (2018) 'Planning Ireland to 2040: how to address our economic development policy weaknesses', Administration, 66(1), pp. 89–105. doi: 10.2478/admin-2018-0010