I am grateful for the opportunity to briefly comment on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017. This Bill is to obtain Oireachtas approval for Ireland to join the AIIB before the end of 2018 and it is a strong indication of the dramatic changes which have taken place in the global economy over the past three decades. The rate of development of the BRICS economies in particular, despite recent slowdowns in growth, show the dramatic rise in the share of world production by the BRICS countries and especially by China. That economic development is mirrored in the Minister’s decision to join the bank, which has 57 founding signatories from June 2015 and up to 25 African, European and South American countries, including Ireland, Belgium and Canada, look set to join this year. Including the 52 countries that have ratified the bank’s articles of agreement, up to 77 countries may have joined by the end of the year.
I had the opportunity to speak on several important issues this week. On Tuesday evening, I commented on Ireland’s Brexit negotiation guidelines and later I made a brief contribution to the Labour Party motion on AIB.
On Wednesday evening, I got an opportunity to again call for major investment in Dublin public transport including Metro North. Finally on Thursday, I questioned Minister Katherine Zappone on the grave deficiencies in aftercare services for young people and raised the urgent need to restore salaries for staff in Section 39 health and disability services organisations.
On Friday afternoon, I met the Director of the NTMA, Mr Conor O’Kelly, with his colleagues, Mr Frank O’Connor and Martin Whelan, on the refinancing of Ireland’s huge national debt in 2018/2020.
I thank the Labour Party for bringing forward this discussion on Allied Irish Bank. There is a major challenge to the State because of the level of the national debt and especially the re-financing of a major chunk of that debt between 2018 and 2020. At the same time, we need major investment in our infrastructure. We are not even meeting depreciation rates of infrastructure replacement.