FEAR OF recession has prompted the Irish government to rein back infrastructure and transport spending on the country's National Development Plan (NDP).
Around IRú4.6bn (-5.2bn) had been earmarked to be spent on the NDP last year, but the budget estimate announced for 2002 by finance minister Charlie McCreevy indicates cuts of -680M have been made.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) was earmarked to receive around -900M for road improvement schemes but has only been allocated -760M, meaning that as many as four road schemes due to start next year could be put on hold.
McCreevy said extra funding could be found for infrastructure schemes. There will also be demands for substantial funding for the proposed -5.7bn) Dublin Metro project which is expected to come before the Cabinet within weeks. The project is at planning stage.
Any drop in funding would be another blow to Ireland's roads programme, which has been dogged by an unresolved farmers' dispute over compensation for land which began last June.
NRA sources said the dispute was now causing serious problems, and that award of two contracts worth -115M - the Cashel bypass and Heath Mayfield motorway bypass in Kildare - had been delayed because tenderers cannot gain access for site inspections. Environmental assessment and surveying work has also been badly hit.