Roads wrong direction for pension fund

12th May 2009
Press Release

An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust, today issued a warning that moves to use the Irish Pension fund to invest in a State Infrastructure Bond could be aimed in the wrong direction. The plan, devised by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and presented to the Minister for Finance last week proposes that the pension fund would be used to “provide much needed finance for the building of roads, railways, schools, hospitals and utility projects”. Although An Taisce would support the use of a fund to develop many vital infrastructure needs, the charity is concerned that the scheme is simply about the big engineering construction firms being able to continue to build roads.

“The idea of using private pension funds and government bonds for infrastructure is entirely appropriate and indeed is the most effective means of advancing investment in renewable energy and energy conservation” stated Charles Stanley-Smith, chair of An Taisce, “indeed it has been investigated and was presented as a pioneering way forward towards long term decarbonisation at a Feasta seminar some months ago” he continued,

However An Taisce would contend that using a fund in ways such as those suggested by the CIC, would allow the continuation of an unstrategic, uneconomic and inappropriate road building programme. Future investment using a state infrastructure bond should be aimed at the achievement of decarbonisation and decongestion, as stated in the Department of Transport’s document Smarter Travel – A new transport policy for Ireland 2009-2020, but there is now a direct and irreconcilable conflict between this policy and further road projects contained in Transport 21 and targeted by CIC for funding under the new pension investment plan.

An Taisce also slams the argument put forward by the CIC that large scale road building programmes are a means of generating construction employment. Using the examples of current projects such as the M3, An Taisce demonstrates that under highly competitive EU procurement rules such projects are usually won by major multi-national consortia employing significant non-Irish labour, and that there is no evidence that major new road building would impact on current unemployment levels in the construction industry . In particular An Taisce sites the telling comparison between road schemes and investment in energy retrofitting of the housing stock which would benefit hundreds of small builders at local level across the country, as well as achieving long term economic and energy conservation advantages.

Any consideration of the investment of Irish pension funds in infrastructure by the government should be with a view to renewable energy investment concludes An Taisce. This will provide long-term energy supply security, reduction in climate changing emissions and reduction of our dependence on imported fossil fuel, rather than continued blind development of major roads with poor cost benefit, poor environmental outcomes and the net effect of stranding whole communities in areas with little or no choice in transport. ENDS For further information please contact: Abby McSherry An Taisce public affairs officer 087 9598767 Charles Stanley-Smith, chair An Taisce 087 2411995

Abby McSherry Local Associations Development Officer An Taisce Tailors' Hall Back Lane Dublin 8

087 9598767

An Taisce holds in trust for future generations of the Irish nation, 10,500 acres and 45 historic structures in 10 counties .