Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Future Ireland Fund and Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund Bill 2024: Report and Final Stages


5:00 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

As we have discussed, the Bill provides for the establishment of two funds, that is, the future Ireland fund and the infrastructure, climate and nature fund. These funds were first proposed in response to two trends, namely, the future costs likely to be incurred by the State and the growth of corporation tax receipts in recent years. We all acknowledge that we have seen a significant increase in corporation tax revenue in recent years. That poses significant risks. We in Sinn Féin recognise those risks and are of the view that windfall corporation tax revenues potentially should not be committed to recurring day-to-day spending.

We support the establishment of sovereign funds, particularly a countercyclical investment fund. What matters is how it is designed. This is where the legislation falls short. A total of 0.8% of GDP will be invested in the future Ireland fund from 2024 to 2035. These are significant sums, which will rise, for example, to €5.4 billion in 2030. As I said earlier, this comes at an opportunity cost in respect of moneys that could otherwise be invested in areas such as housing and infrastructure, which we cannot afford to neglect. The State is projected to run an Exchequer deficit in 2026 and 2027. Under this legislation, the State would, while running a deficit, transfer €4.3 billion into the fund in 2026 and €4.5 billion in 2027. We have concerns about the implications for other areas, such as tackling the Government's housing crisis, of enshrining this provision in law.

Under the Government, the rate of homeownership is falling, homelessness is rising and an entire generation is locked out of homeownership. The Government's housing targets are too low and it is failing even to meet some of them. More than 50,000 homes are required each year to meet housing need. Public investment must also rise in order to increase capacity in our health services and hospitals. Our economic climate is destined to change in future years. We could face a scenario whereby this legislation inhibits the public investment needs of the State. As stated, the Bill is far too rigid. It lacks flexibility and risks unintended consequences for the State's fiscal and economic policy. I have made it clear that the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund providing funding for future challenges and current crises would make good use of the significant growth in corporation tax receipts in recent times. However, for the reasons I have outlined previously and today, we will not support the legislation and will vote against it on Fifth Stage.


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