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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 953 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] The Minister of State and his colleagues will be waving flags on Friday night after the vote but they should make haste slowly. I urge caution. I am not in favour of this Bill. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his forbearance.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Will the Minister of State undertake to respond to the debate, notwithstanding the many rural analogies that were put to him?

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank Deputies for their wide-ranging and interesting comments on the Bill. I ask Deputy Mattie McGrath if in future he could direct his comments at the Minister and not at the officials. I also remind him that we are on an island and we must work and trade with others. That is very important and it is a crucial point behind this Bill that is being progressed.

The intention to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, has been made public.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath On a point of order------

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl No, the Minister is replying.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The officials' boss is the Minister. The whole lot of it was a mess so they were all responsible. I was addressing both the Minister and the officials.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I think the record will show that the Deputy made his remarks directed at the officials here in the Chamber-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I did not.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy -----and I just ask that in future they be directed at me. The record will show that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It was not personal.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy That is how it came across.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputy McGrath has clarified that he was casting no aspersions on any officials.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Good.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we continue?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I would just let Deputy McGrath know that there was much engagement between the Government and the AIIB prior to making the application for membership and the president of the AIIB was here in January at the European Financial Forum in Dublin Castle, which we hosted as part of our IFS 2020 strategy. I also went over to meet the president in Beijing earlier this year.

I welcome Deputy Michael McGrath’s contribution during an earlier part of the debate on the Bill when he noted the importance of promoting strong trade and economic links with Asia, which is the fastest-growing region in the world. He also recognised the driving role that the AIIB can play in stimulating further economic growth in Asia through much-needed investment in infrastructure.

I welcome Deputy Tóibín’s strong support for our membership of the bank. He referenced the fact that Ireland did not join the bank as a founding member in 2015. Ireland had favoured a co-ordinated approach to membership with other EU member states, however, this proved not to be possible. While the Deputy is correct that there are slight differences in the terms for founding members, these are not substantial. Ireland is joining on the same terms as all other countries in its round of applicants and will enjoy equivalent voting rights. In addition, Ireland can be assured of the good governance of the bank, having observed its operations over its first year. Regarding Deputy Tóibín’s comments on our capital contribution, I can assure him that there is no question of Ireland joining on the cheap. The contribution of €25 million is in my view proportionate and was calculated on the basis of Ireland’s relative gross domestic product, GDP, and the capital available in the bank. All other prospective members will have their capital calculated in this way.

I welcome Deputy Burton's contribution and her questions regarding the vision of the AIIB and how Ireland will approach its relationship to the bank. The bank primarily differs from other development banks through its focus on investing in infrastructure in Asia, which is sorely lacking. While the Asian Development Bank and World Bank have an overriding focus on poverty reduction, the AIIB's mandate is to invest in infrastructure, which will in turn facilitate trade and investment, fostering economic growth for all. In this way the AIIB will not overlap with or contradict the work of existing development banks.

To respond to some of Deputy Boyd Barrett's points, I will cite the example of a typical AIIB project, namely, the power project recently announced in India, which will have benefits far beyond the infrastructure itself. Such a project will improve the supply of electricity access to rural areas, thus, allowing women and children in these areas to study after night has fallen and improve their education. More broadly, electricity access will make a significant contribution to economic development in some of the poorest rural regions. I also highlight that in addition, this project includes a gender action plan, which will aim to promote women’s participation and maximise the project's benefits to women.

Through its membership of the AIIB, Ireland will aim to ensure that such projects are of the highest standards, with rigorous social and environmental protections and clear economic benefit for those who need it most. We will also aim to ensure that the bank takes a multilateral approach to its projects. Efficient and effective multilateral co-operation is particularly important as the international community moves towards delivering on the ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

There are encouraging signs to date on the multilateral approach of the bank. The presidents of the AIIB and World Bank co-signed a memorandum of understanding at the recent IMF-World Bank spring meetings in Washington. The memorandum builds on the first co-financing framework agreement for investment projects signed last year by the two institutions and provides an overall framework for co-operation between the World Bank and the AIIB. It paves the way for the two institutions to further enhance co-ordination at the regional and country levels and builds on the projects which they have already co-financed in Pakistan, Indonesia and India. This partnership will assist in ensuring that the robust standards of the World Bank will be transferred to the AIIB. For economic growth to be sustainable it must be inclusive, including in regard to gender. Ireland strongly supports the World Bank’s 2015 gender strategy and will aim to ensure that efforts to tackle gender inequality are mainstreamed at the AIIB.

Deputies Burton and Tóibín are right to look closely at standards with regard to human rights and the environment. In observing the AIIB since it came into operation we have noted the clear steps it has made to introduce strong safeguards in these areas. The AIIB has an Environmental and Social Framework, which was published in February 2016 and is publicly available on the AIIB website. The framework includes provisions on labour rights, gender equality and environmental standards. In addition, the 57 founding members, in particular EU members, have used their influence to ensure that the standards of other development banks are mirrored at the AIIB. As I noted earlier, the majority of the AIIB’s projects to date have been co-financed with other development banks providing reassurance in this regard. If Ireland were to become a member of the AIIB, we would use our influence, in co-ordination with other members, to ensure that these high standards are maintained.

Deputies Michael McGrath and Mattie McGrath also made specific reference to progress in meeting the UN target of 0.7% of gross national product, GNP, for overseas development assistance, ODA. The programme for Government sets out our ambition to make progress on this target as resources allow. Based on current forecasts we anticipate the percentage of ODA per GNP for 2016 as being at least 0.3%. Obviously, recent revisions in GNP have reduced this percentage, despite increases in overall funding for ODA in recent years. Ireland will continue to work towards this target, as economic circumstances allow, and we anticipate that our contributions to the AIIB will be of benefit in this regard.

Deputy Broughan asked a question regarding the voting share. The final voting share remains to be decided but we expect it to be more than 0.1%. I absolutely reject his characterisation of the Minister, Deputy Noonan's record of public service.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions and support for this Bill. I am heartened to see that there is commitment to strengthening Ireland’s ties to the growing Asian region and to maintaining our strong history of support for international development.

  Question put.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 1 June 2016.

  The Dáil adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 12 noon on Thursday, 1 June 2017.

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