Northern Ireland is lagging behind in terms of its infrastructure future, according to Dr Kaine Lynch, of Ernst and Young (EY).
Writing in the Irish News the EY Director of Government and Infrastructure said that Northern Ireland is not keeping pace.
“Our closest neighbours are making significant headway in relation to infrastructure,” he said.
“In November the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) published its second National Infrastructure assessment (NIA) setting out the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs.
Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement addressed several of the NIA’s recommendations, including reforms to the planning process.
The chancellor also announced that a new National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) will be published this year and that it will respond to the NIA in full. But due to devolution, much of the content of the NIA and future NIS will not apply to Northern Ireland.
“In October the Irish government also unveiled plans for an Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund, supporting investment in both the environment and the economy, and crucially pre-empting any ‘stop-start’ capital investment cycles that can occur during an economic downturn.”
The Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation said that what we do now is crucial.
“Infrastructure is a fundamental building block of society. It brings us together, protects the environment, and supports economic growth,” he explained.
“The benefits of high-quality infrastructure are more important today than ever before given the need to supercharge the economy and address the climate crisis, which will require really significant investment over the coming decades, mostly in the transport, renewables and buildings sectors.”
However, it is clear from the figures that there are major financial problems.
“In Northern Ireland past and present fiscal challenges have resulted in an enormous infrastructure deficit,” he said. “According to a report by the Audit Office, published in 2019, the road maintenance backlog alone totalled £1.2 billion and this has continued to increase since then.”