Former chief of IDA Ireland Padraic White has called for a special cross-border development zone to be set up that could boost the economic development of Derry and the border regions.
The proposal is made in the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ report, ‘Cross-Border Economic Renewal: Rethinking Regional Policy in Ireland’.
The authors of the report, published this week, are two internationally distinguished economists, Dr John Bradley, formerly of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, and Professor Michael Best, of University of Massachusetts Lowell and Cambridge University.
The study reports Mr White’s speech at a recent CCBS conference in which he emphasised that “the immediately adjoining border areas have common economic threats but also a strong interest in maximising joint strengths” and that “district councils and counties along this ‘Border Development Zone’ could drive economic development by cooperation and sharing successful ideas.”
The former managing director of the agency responsible for attracting Foreign Direct Investment to the Republic of Ireland identified a number of bilateral initiatives that could form the initial basis of a strategic Cross-Border Development Plan for the whole border region.
Dr Bradley and Professor Best said “the goal of such a Border Development Zone would be to stimulate a form of development that is uniquely adapted to the region, making maximum use of current ‘national’ resources and stimulating the evolution of local resources and expertise.
“The measure of success of such a policy initiative would be the rebalancing of the border region economy” so that it is “less dependent on external financial subvention, and is able to generate resources for development internally.”
They said that this could be achieved through “a revitalised small-scale manufacturing and service sector base that has the potential for higher external sales and ultimately a greater international export potential.”
The researchers identified three key dimensions to establish such a zone. The first is ‘spatial’ and would require definition of the border region economy. The second dimension is ‘sectoral’ and involves identifying the sectors uniquely suitable and adaptable within the proposed zone, including the four sources identified by Padraic White. The authors identified the final dimension as ‘institutional’ and outlined the required policy and actions to make the zone work. The economists noted that a combination of the three would “provide a better basis for dealing with the exceptional challenges of the border region.”