Creation of new Infrastructure Commission 'the game changer we need'

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon pictured with Kirsty McManus (IoD NI national director), who chaired the independent panel of experts to produce the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Infrastructure. Picture: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BUSINESSES in the north are embracing a Stormont commitment to establishing a "game-changing" independent Infrastructure Commission which will drive forward a post-Covid recovery.

The commission will advise on delivering large scale transformative projects to enhance economic growth in the north and help tackle the climate crisis.

Its creation was an SDLP manifesto pledge aimed at breaking the silo mentality of government departments and providing expert advice long term project delivery.

Speaking after the publication of her "Building Forward" plan, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “Last year, in looking at how we could do things differently and much better, I asked an independent group of experts to explore the value of an Infrastructure Commission.

“The panel produced an in-depth report, and since its publication I've been working to make the case to ministerial colleagues of the need for, and significant advantages to be gained from an Infrastructure Commission for Northern Ireland.

“In the context of the challenges of Covid, Brexit, climate change and economic strain, investing and long-term planning for critical infrastructure has never been more important.

“As we emerge from the pain of this pandemic, we cannot and must not simply go back to doing everything exactly as we did before, and must seize our chance for change.

“We have a unique opportunity to improve the quality of life for our citizens, to protect and enhance our environment, tackle regional imbalance and to reset our economy.”

The Northern Ireland Business Alliance said the ‘Building Forward' plan and creation of an Infrastructure Commission “is a crucial first step in empowering us to turbo-charge infrastructure to deliver cleaner, greener, sustainable and inclusive growth for all”.

The Alliance is a partnership between the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland (CBI NI), the Centre for Competitiveness, the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In a joint statement, leaders of the Alliance (an amalgam of CBI NI, the Centre for Competitiveness, IoD NI and the NI Chamber) said: “We look forward to seeing the plans progress and it is important that the scope and role of the proposed Commission aligns with the advisory panel's recommendations.

“The Infrastructure Commission must be expert lead, providing government with the kind of longer term strategic vision and focus required to ensure spending on things like roads and transport networks is linked to the needs of those operating in the economy.

“When it comes to investment in infrastructure, Northern Ireland has for some time been playing catch up with our neighbours across the rest of the UK and Ireland.

“It is now time to close the gap, capitalise on this unique opportunity, and realise the tremendous potential of this region to be a world leader in green growth that makes Northern Ireland a better place in which to live, work and do business.”

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