MOTORWAY APPROVAL MAY LEAD TO HUNDREDS OF JOBS - Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created by the construction of the €550 million Gort-to-Tuam motorway in Co Galway, which has been given final clearance by Government. The National Roads Authority confirmed yesterday it had been told to proceed with the 57km public-private partnership after the Government approved its share of funding for the project on Tuesday, writes the Irish Times. The motorway project had been suspended in light of the economic downturn, but the NRA will now re-engage with its preferred bidder, the Direct Route consortium. A spokesman said it was hoped construction work would get under way by the end of the year. Construction is expected to take three and a half years. The scheme forms a major section of the proposed Atlantic Corridor, which will eventually connect the towns and regional cities on the west coast with Cork and Waterford, linking to air and sea ports along the way. The Gort-to-Tuam route consists of almost 60km of dual carriageway. It starts at the northern extremity of the existing N18 Gort-Crusheen motorway scheme, and extends in a northerly direction with a major junction at Rathmorrissey where the route crosses the M6 Dublin to Galway motorway.
EURO ZONE NEEDS BACKSTOP AFTER END OF IRISH BANK GUARANTEE, SAYS CBI - The Irish Government may have looked at the apparently successful Swedish bank guarantee of the 1990s when deciding to do the same for Irish banks in 2008, the Swedish-born chief economist of the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) said yesterday. Speaking a day after the ending of the Irish bank guarantee was announced, Lars Frisell said the euro area must come to a situation where bank difficulties can be resolved smoothly, without threatening financial stability or at significant cost to taxpayers, writes the Irish Independent. What was needed was a common eurozone "backstop" which could supply banks with both capital and loans without increasing governments' vicious debt circle, he told a meeting of the Institute for International and European Affairs in Dublin. Once the "thorny issue" of legacy debts - where the Irish government is campaigning for EU assistance - was settled, "a European fund could act as a patient, deep-pocket investor which provides assurance to creditors that, in the event of any further negative surprise, future capital needs will be met."
SHATTER BID TO STOP 'BANKRUPTCY TOURISM' - Justice Minister Alan Shatter is trying to eliminate abuses of bankruptcy laws in other countries through proposals for modernising EU-wide insolvency legislation, reports the Irish Examiner. Irish property developers have attracted widespread criticism over the past few years for availing of much more lenient bankruptcy laws in the UK in what has been described as "bankruptcy tourism". Mr Shatter said he had arranged that the initial discussion on the proposed regulation took place at the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting of EU justice ministers held in Dublin Castle on January 17 and 18. "I emphasised the importance of a more uniform approach across the EU in regard to the establishment of the centre of main interest so as to combat potential abuses which have given rise to allegations of 'bankruptcy tourism'," said Mr Shatter in response to a Dáil question tabled by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty. Central to the EU proposals will be tightening up on guidelines on what is known as the centre of main interest. This will impose a higher burden of proof on people who want to apply for bankruptcy that they have moved their business interests and families to that country for a requisite time before they can start proceedings.
SHELL PUTS ARCTIC AMBITIONS ON ICE - Royal Dutch Shell said it was abandoning plans to drill for oil off the north coast of Alaska this year, in a huge setback for the company’s Arctic ambitions, reports the Financial Times. Shell said it would “pause” its exploration drilling activities for 2013 in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas “to prepare equipment and plans for a resumption of activity at a later stage”. It did not say when it would resume the campaign. The company has spent some $5 billion on the campaign and has yet to complete a single well. The Anglo-Dutch major has long been an enthusiast of the Arctic’s hydrocarbon potential, claiming the Chukchi and Beaufort hold some 25 billion barrels of crude. It often cites statistics from the US Geological Survey that say the Arctic accounts for roughly 20% of the world’s yet-to-be-discovered oil and gas resources. But the company’s efforts to find oil in the region’s frozen seas have so far proved fruitless. It has faced a flurry of legal challenges from environmental groups who object to oil companies operating in what is a near pristine wilderness, as well as a string of equipment problems and objections from regulators.