Rabbitte wants more State asset sale money for investment

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte has said he would prefer to see more money go towards investment from the sale of state assets.

The Government hopes to raise €3bn by selling parts of energy suppliers ESB and Bord Gais, and other state-owned assets.

A third of the windfall will be reinvested into the Irish economy to boost job creation, and the remaining €2bn will be used to pay back European debt.

“I would like to see more money for investment,” Mr Rabbitte said. “I would like to see for example monies available for investment in broadband and next-generation access.”

The Government negotiated the deal with the Troika – consisting of the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.

The debt masters originally called for the sale of assets to the value of €5bn, all of which was to go towards paying off debt.

But it finally agreed to allow Ireland to scale back to €3bn worth of assets and invest a portion in stimulating growth.

Mr Rabbitte added that he understands the importance of Ireland writing down its debts.

“It’s not true to say that monies that go to pay down debts are wasted,” he told RTÉ.

“This country has such enormous debt as a result of previous reckless management that we have to try to get it under control.”

The Minister compared Ireland’s recovery process to that of Greece and Portugal.

“In Greece and Portugal, substantial disposals are being forced and being used for the write down of debt, so Ireland has done well out of this,” he said.

“But of course I would like to see more money for investment.”

The Government aims to sell off some ESB power stations, but it will retain its minority stake of the company despite previous claims it would be the first asset on the chopping block.

The retail, trading and assets division of Bord Gais will also go on the market.

But the company’s gas distribution and transmission systems will remain in state ownership.

Some of the forestry of part state-owned Coillte could be marked for sale when conditions are more favourable.

The Government also agreed to sell its remaining 25% stake in Aer Lingus - but only when it receives a good financial offer.

Mr Rabbitte is expected to come back to the Government within a month with a list of specific recommendations for the sales of the assets, which are not likely to be completed until next year.

Opposition TDs have criticised the Government’s decision to make the sales, with Sinn Féin describing it as a short-term answer to long-term problems.

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