Midlands and South East Counties are Falling Behind
30 March 2004
Economic performance in the midlands and southeast region has fallen significantly in recent years, a Teagasc conference on rural development has been told.
In contrast, counties in the border and western counties have maintained economic performance and are now significantly ahead of the midlands and south east.
David Meredith of the Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre told the conference that household income in the midlands and southeast is below 85% of the national average. In the border and western counties household income is between 85% and 90% of the national average.
“These counties of the midlands and south east are now emerging as the new ‘disadvantaged’ areas in Ireland,” said David Meredith.
“An indication of the contrasting fortunes can be seen in income figures in Waterford and Limerick between 1995 and 2001. During this period, income per person in Waterford fell by 4% while in Limerick income per person increased by 6%, relative to the national average,” he said.
David Meredith presented the results of a detailed analysis of the performance of Wexford and Clare between 1995 and 2001. It shows that household income in Wexford declined from 87% to 83% of the national average while it remained static, at 91% of the national average, in Clare.
“This shows that peripherality and distance from the core do not necessarily mean poorer economic development. Neither do better natural resources, especially for agriculture and, in the case of Wexford, a more favourable location, guarantee better economic performance,” he said.
“Wexford has a higher dependence on agriculture and associated processing activities. Contracting employment in this sector has not been off-set by sufficient investment in the non-agricultural sectors.”
“Clare, by contrast, has engaged more actively with ‘new-economy’ enterprises with their related requirements for skilled labour and professional services,” said David Meredith.
He said the difference in economic performance between the two counties is exemplified in the level of job creation both from domestic and foreign enterprises. For example, the growth in employment in foreign enterprises in the mid west was 68% between 1991 and 2000 compared with 14% for the south east.
“The urban structure in the mid-west, with one major centre appears to be more conducive to developing contemporary knowledge based enterprises than the more dispersed urban pattern in the south east,” he said.
However, he said that population reductions in parts of west Clare indicate that balanced county development has not taken place. This, he said, has implications for the manner in which the National Spatial Strategy can be articulated at sub-county level so that rural hinterlands can benefit from ‘gateways’ and hub towns.
“Our analysis shows that a rural development model based on a relatively prosperous agricultural economy, as exists in Wexford, is much too limited a strategy to ensure development of a rural county,” said David Meredith.
Click here for the proceedings from the Rural Development Conference 2004.