Dáil Éireann - Volume 517 - 30 March, 2000

Written Answers. - Central Statistics Office.

90. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the figures recently published by the CSO regarding the regional distribution of national household incomes. [5900/00]

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Last month, the CSO published a document entitled Household Incomes, Regions and Counties, 1991-1997. This publication provided estimates of household incomes at regional assembly – NUTS II – regional authority – NUTS III – and county levels.

These estimates indicated that, over the seven [401] year period 1991-97, there was stability in the relative position of the two NUTS II regions, with disposable income per head remaining at 91% of the national average in the Border, midlands and western region and at 103% in the southern and eastern region.

Within the BMW region, there was very little change in the relative income position of regional authority – NUTS III – areas vis-à-vis the national average. However, there was a perceptible change within the NUTS regions of the southern and eastern region, with the mid-east showing a marked improvement in relative position.

Care must be exercised in interpreting the meaning of these results in terms of living standards and quality of life across regions and counties. In the first place, the estimation of household incomes, even at national level, is, I am informed, an inexact statistical science and the smaller the geographic area which is covered, the more inexact it becomes. Secondly, to get a view of relative living standards, you would need to assess incomes in each area in the light of living costs there.

Nevertheless, despite the reservations to which they are subject, the figures published by the CSO clearly indicate that there are imbalances in incomes and living standards within and between regions. In particular, the imbalance between the southern and eastern region and the BMW region justifies the successful strategy of the Government to retain Objective One status for the latter region. Consistent with this strategy, the Government has identified better balanced regional development, both between and within regions, as a fundamental objective of the NDP.