Today, from one of the poorest country, just some decades back, the country has moved to the top of the league; becoming one of the richest country in Europe today (Labohm, 2005; Wikipedia, 2006a; Ireland-Economic Profile, 2005).
Although, Ireland is no longer a poor country with its per capita income now one of the highest in the European Community. Yet Ireland's infrastructure and social provision are far below the EU average. The growing poverty rates, unequal income distribution, growing rich-poor gap and the under-equipped transport, health and education systems represent the most visible signs of the extensive gaps in the country's infrastructural base. This poor infrastructure, especially as it concerns transport impacts heavily on several sectors of the country and most importantly on the increasing poor population (A Little Done, 2005). This paper therefore intends to look at the problem of infrastructure in Ireland; how bad it is and what the government is doing to remedy the situation.
A good way to start the assessment of the infrastructural problems of the country is to attempt a pragmatic definition of the term 'infrastructure'. In the most general understanding, 'infrastructure' is employed to refer to a set of interconnected structural elements that provide the framework or basis that supports an entire system. However, when restricted to discussions concerning economic growth and/or development of a state or country, infrastructure refers to the facilities that enable the efficient running of individual and corporate businesses and improves the quality of lives for the inhabitants. This could include sectors of the economy as transportation, water supply, electricity/energy supply, waste removal, communications etc (Wikipedia, 2006b).
Though, infrastructure is traditionally associated with transportation, such as road networks, railways, motorways etc; it is vital to point out that the term actually subsumes a wide range of facilities and services that enable the smooth running of individual and corporate existence in a state and thus includes more than twenty different areas of investment ranging from the transport, communications, electricity/energy, land development, utilities and even waste disposal and management. Most of Ireland's infrastructure used to be owned and operated by the government, however, things are changing, some are now being operated, partially or totally by the private sector, which holds serious implications for the infrastructural development of the country and the policies required to address the obvious deficits in the country's infrastructure (The Case for Change, 2005).
The importance of a sound and well developed physical infrastructure not just for the country's development but also for the quality of life of its people cannot be overemphasised. In the fast moving global economy, people, goods and information must be able to move from one point to the other, quickly, reliably and efficiently. Businesses and investment are attracted to a region/state where good infrastructure exists, because enterprises will only thrive in an environment where physical and communication infrastructures are adequately deployed. Also, tourism is a strong revenue earner, providing thousands of jobs for the nation,