A scheme to take a huge chunk worth billions of euro in capital spending from the government's balance sheet and improve the national debt by tapping Irish private investment and pension money will be pitched to finance minister Brian Lenihan.
Architects, engineers, surveyors, members of the Construction Industry Federation and building firms represented by the Irish Business Employers Federation have joined with trade unions to relaunch a scheme that matches private pension money with government spending on roads, public transport and social projects.
The Construction Industry Council (CIC), the industry umbrella group, said it was confident of winning the approval of the Irish pension funds and investment managers that would save thousands of building jobs. It said the British government was now looking at copying the scheme there for its public capital spending.
At a board meeting on Thursday, the CIC said it had committed to getting the private pension investment scheme across the line. It said it was confident of finding solutions to what it described as "technical problems" facing the Irish pension industry, investment managers and pension trustees directing private pension savings into Irish capital projects.
Unlike the controversial Greek schemes, Eurostat is thought to be unlikely to oppose the private-public investment and Lenihan is said to be supportive.
"The pension fund proposal is crucial for the construction industry, which has seen its pipeline of work devastated," said Tom Parlon, director general of the Construction Industry Federation. "We, with the CIC, will leave no stone unturned in pursuing it with government and with the pension industry. The British move shows it can be achieved. If there are technical issues there is no reason they cannot be addressed."
The Sunday Tribune last March reported that the scheme to ring-fence big chunks of the money the government spends on infrastructure had been examined by government officials. The Central Statistics Office scrutinised the proposal to see if it met the criteria set by European regulators.
The proposal ran into the sands because the pension industry reportedly sought too high a guaranteed return – higher than the cost of borrowing from the sovereign debt markets – for its money. Since then the crisis on the debt markets has eased and it is hoped the returns demanded by the pension industry will also have fallen.