CIF calls for Minister for Construction in Cabinet reshuffle

09 Jul 2014

Irish Government - but where's the Minister for Construction?




Irish Government - but where's the Minister for Construction?

Photo of the Cabinet post the 2011 General Election. No Minister for Construction present, but will there be in future?

By Ruth Baily

The Irish Independent has suggested the current Government reshuffle offers a golden opportunity to appoint a Housing Minister.  In the article Fionnan Sheahan says:

“The shortage of housing stock in parts of the country, particularly Dublin, is causing a property price bubble for those who want to enter the market or move home. On the rental side, the same shortage is causing rents to rocket.  Simple demand-and-supply economics are at play in the market.  The same housing shortage is also causing lengthening waiting lists for social housing, with activists warning of a growing homelessness crisis. Yet the arts have the dedicated voice of a  senior minister at the cabinet table, while housing only have a Super Junior Minister, whose precise responsibilities remain vague”. 

This echoes something that the CIF has been calling for for some time, a Minister for Construction with the full resources of a Department which would help drive recovery in both the construction sector and would in turn be a key driver for the overall economy. Having a Minister with responsibility for construction would stop construction issues falling between different stools – as is currently the case.  

Construction would seem to be an area of priority for the Government.  They realise we need to increase the level of house building and to get the rest of the sector growing and creating jobs. If their recently published strategy document, Construction 2020 is to be achieved then someone in the Government will have to take ownership for it.  Who better than a Minister for Construction?

A Minister for Construction and their Department would be able to oversee  all of the 75 actions included in this plan including overall proper strategic planning development and maintenance of national infrastructure, public transport facilities and requirements, public buildings, office and business development hubs, housing, both private and social,  and leisure and tourist facilities.  At the moment the actions are dispersed across many Departments and agencies, by bringing everything under the one umbrella the objectives of Construction 2020 will be delivered with greater ease.  Along with delivering the promises laid out in Construction 2020 the Government would ensure that problems like the current housing crisis would be less likely to happen in the future.

The stats also back up the case for a Minister for Construction.  The construction sector in Q1 2014 accounted for 6.4% of GDP and directly employed 102,900 people representing 5.4% of the total workforce.  If the industry were functioning at full capacity it would account for between 10% to 12% of GDP and employment levels would grow substantially.  Agriculture which employs approximately the same has its own Minister. While not dismissing the importance of that Department, these figures do illustrate the value of construction to the economy.  Getting construction workers currently unemployed back to work would have the effect of reducing the social welfare bill and increased income tax revenue. It will also help drive the general economy with increased spending by those newly reemployed in the sector.

If the sector is to fully recover, a Minister for Construction is a vital link in the chain for both the industry and the economy to continue along the path to recovery.

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