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  • Writer's picturebrianleddin

What Infrastructure Do We Need?

I agree with much of this article by David McWilliams in today's Irish Times. We should absolutely get over the fear of spending money. The last few years, in government, I've become slightly exasperated at the hesitance to spend on what we can intuitively say would be beneficial infrastructure. Projects must prove themselves on paper many times over before they get the green light even though the mechanisms to appraise such projects are little more than a pseudo science.

Simply put, we are not good at measuring the true impacts of infrastructure before construction, or indeed after for that matter, yet we still insist that the charade of project appraisal be the arbiter of whether it proceeds or not. This makes no sense, but it is how we do things, and often the outcome is that we don't spend or we spend on the wrong project.

McWilliams could and should be more prescriptive about what kind of infrastructure we need. I know that some champions of new roads would take his article as a call to build more of them, instead of building new or reopening old rail lines. Our thinking for determining what infrastructure is needed tends to be informed by problems we see emerging and then reacting accordingly, rather than by setting out what kind of country we want and planning infrastructure on that basis. The problem with the reactive way is that it doesn't solve the problem and simply masks the symptoms for a while, until they re-emerge and we start the process all over again.

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