Tuesday, 30 May 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach the requests, if any, that have been made to the Central Statistics Office to start assembling statistics on income levels in the different sub-regions of the State in preparation for the Structural Funding negotiations post 1999. [9284/95]
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. J. Higgins): The Central Statistics Office is conscious of the desirability of regional accounts and has initiated investigations into their compilation by commissioning the ESRI to undertake a study into the methodology required to produce these accounts.
Mr. B. Ahern: How does the Government propose to move forward? Up until now Ireland has been considered as one region in Structural Funding negotiations. I do not want to go into detail but how does the Government propose to prepare the analysis which would allow us, if necessary, to make our case for Structural Funding in 1998 and 1999 based on regional statistics? A great deal of work needs to be done first. It was acknowledged at the completion of the last round of Structural Funding negotiations that in building our case we would have to compile information over a number of years. We should start with the current year. Is the Government planning to do this and, if not, will the Minister of State give a commitment that it will do so?
Mr. J. Higgins: It has been universally acknowledged that there are gross disparities between the regions. The ESRI  has been commissioned to undertake a study into the methodology required to produce these accounts. It is expected that its report will be available early next year.
Mr. B. Ahern: While I welcome the fact the ESRI is carrying out a study, in 1998, or 1999 at the latest, we will have to present five year figures. That only gives us four years in which to compile data. If we wait until next year it will be too late. We should be able to present regional data covering a five year period. Based on the European GDP average this country will not be considered as one region. Therefore we need to start compiling information from 1995 onwards while we still have time to do so.
Mr. J. Higgins: The point made by the Deputy is under active consideration. It is fully appreciated at Government level, in terms of devising a timetable and calculating averages. The CSO is only responsible for the proper collection of statistics in accordance with internationally accepted standards. I am not responsible for their interpretation.
Mr. Cullen: The Minister of State said that the ESRI is conducting a study into the methodology required. Does he agree that the regional authorities established in recent years should be consulted in this regard, particularly in the assimilation of pertinent information in making the case for the regions? Will he undertake to consult with them on this matter?
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